The Chiasmus team was faced with the challenge of landing the face of New York jazz, in the capital of China – a city full of Chinese history.
The project is situated in the courtyard of this landmark complex, mostly underground with a grand stair entrance from the east. The procession of the space has a rhythm that was inspired as much by music as the Hutong complex in the old city of Beijing, with long corridors and twists and turns.
Visitors are moved from the inner garden of the complex via a large set of staircases, slowly down to a lobby that has an attached jazz store/cafe. Then a right turn brings them through a long and narrow corridor, lined with a timeline on the development of jazz. At the end of the tunnel, guests arrive at the grand lobby – now already some 5m down from street level. The grand lobby is a gathering place as much as a functional hub, branching into the upper VIP circuits, ticketing area, office area and restrooms.
From the grand lobby, guests descend down a mysterious blue staircase with a curved ceiling, to the main performance space, an impressive volume that suddenly opens one’s underground experience. The stage setup is larger in width than depth, eschewing the traditional shoe-box layout. This promotes an atmosphere of surrounding space and also minimises the distance between the further states seat from the stage.
There are approximately 240 seats at the ground level, all flexible and removable to accommodate programmes outside of the standard performance. On the upper level, there are seven box seating areas with open railing of various sizes. From the stage the performers are surrounded by audiences, both horizontally and vertically.
The material palette of the interior is quite simple: black metal, pressed-concrete board and perforated metal panel with acoustic treatment as wall surfaces, wood flooring and furniture with leather and acoustic treated ceilings. Lighting is mostly dimmed to accentuate the stage and performers, with accents of blue as part of the branding.
The performance space is equipped with top-notch sound systems, with strategically positioned speakers that reaches every seat. The spatial layout also provides a side variety of viewing angles, which makes repeated visits to the space more interesting than a standard hierarchical seating layout.
The jazz centre is also equipped with a full kitchen that can serve food for 300 audience members and a full bar.
Musicians are treated with a large green room and ample changing rooms. There is also a sizeable practice room that is fully acoustically insulated.
Spatially, this is the most generous Blue Note club in the world, with comfortable seats, large tables and ample room between audiences. This is a design adjustment that caters to Beijing as much as a consideration of its proximity to the grandeur of the Forbidden Palace.