Why must concert halls always be in city centres?
We must think laterally about where to put concert halls, says Rupert Christiansen
8:00AM BST 20 Sep 2014
Location, location, location. Concert halls, we generally suppose, are buildings that belong in the hub: jewels at the centre of a town crown, stimulating night life and defining civic prestige.
But in today’s world, where the demands of motor cars dominate the transport network and inner cities have become very expensive and sometimes daunting places, many people don’t want to venture into the urban jungle for an evening’s entertainment.
Glyndebourne and Snape Maltings have already proved the advantages of siting classical musical venues in idyllic rural surroundings, but both are approached via narrow B roads, thus raising sensitive environmental issues. Is there a case for siting such places peripherally, closer to large car parks, shopping malls or motorway junctions?
Two interesting case studies present themselves. Britain’s newest concert hall, Saffron Hall, is found five minutes outside the centre of Saffron Walden in Essex. With a population of about 15,000, this pleasant town is about 20 miles from Cambridge, 40 from London and 60 from Ipswich – relatively isolated, in other words, from major centres of population.
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