France: Coal mine turned into solar-powered concert hall
A onetime coal complex in northern France has produced a building that is alive with the sound of music – a solar-powered concert hall that uses its own walls to create it.
As the first of the large industrial powers in the world, France decided already in the early 1990s to abandon coal mining and shut down all of its coal mines. The last mine was shut down in 2004.
The city of Oignies in north France decided to make a new use of the abandoned coal mining buildings. Visitors are now travelling there to experience how one of its old coal factories have been turned into a concert hall and cultural house whose walls produce and diffuse sounds in harmony with the play of light as an “urban musical instrument”. It serves as a secular bell, signals the beginning of a concert, and produces a peripheral sound space.
24 musical instruments are integrated into the walls, making the building itself a playable instrument. The building’s exterior is sheathed in a steel structure made up of a mosaic of tiles that includes frosted glass, steel, and wood—all of which transmit sound. Photovoltaic panels line its roof and are built into the frame that runs along the building’s back porch.
The 24 ‘house instruments’ were created by musician and sound designer Louis Dandrel
The Metaphase Concert Hall was designed by the architectural company Herault-Arnod
Since its opening in spring 2013, the venue has hosted a variety of musical groups, including rock, rap, and reggae acts and American hardcore punk band Suicidal Tendencies.
In 2012, the former coalmining town of Lens similarly opened “a striking new outpost” on the site of an old coal pit, The Louvre-Lens. The British newspaper The Guardian called it France’s “most important arts event of the decade,” with local politicians heralding it as nothing short of “a miracle”.
Nation of enviromental excellence
French president François Hollande has promised to make France “the nation of environmental excellence”. Because of its efforts with reducing its consumption of fossil energy during the last two decades, the country has long been a consistent low-carbon leader globally.
The French Parliament recently took two significant stands to help combatting the international carbon emissions crisis. On 19 December 2013 they adopted a budget for 2014 which includes a tax on carbon emissions from gas, heating oil and coal, and a few months earlier the country issued an absolute ban on gas mining with ‘fracking’, the hydraulic fracturing mining technique.
The money derived from the carbon tax — which largely targets transport fuels and domestic heating — will be used to reduce emissions through increased installation of renewable energy throughout the country, according to the report. The move is projected to raise €4 billion, or $5.5 billion, per year by 2016, which can then spent on tax breaks for the wind and solar power industries.
The burning of coal today is responsible for a third of global carbon emissions.
Take Part – 17 December 2013:
Once a Coal Mine, Now a Solar-Powered Music Hall
The Metaphone is part musical venue and part musical instrument.
Article by Andri Antoniades
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