Autumn sunlight is rippling through the windows. Some panes are frosted glass while others have been left transparent to allow the Aura River and museum ship Sigyn to be viewed from the concert hall lobby.
Sigyn Hall is known for its carefully thought out details. Named after a historical sailing ship, the concert hall is located at Turku’s Varvintori square, which was part of the Aura River’s old dockyard in the early 20th century. A former rope factory and the dockyard buildings, which these days serve as an art campus and event venue, remind the visitor of the area’s past.
‘Sigyn has been built inside an old dockyard hall, and it provides an atmospheric yet functional venue for concerts, celebrations, meetings and congresses. It also reflects Turku’s maritime history beautifully,’ says Contact Manager Tommi Saalas from Turku Conservatory.
The old dockyard hall was built in 1928. The property’s smaller halls, Crichton and Vulcan, were named after old shipyard companies in honour of the area’s history. The Conservatory and Turku University of Applied Sciences’ Arts Academy use Sigyn’s facilities frequently, but they also rent the halls out to other users. The property is owned by pension provider Keva.
‘Sigyn Hall was designed by LPR Architects. The building was completed in 1994, and it has received several of the industry’s awards. The same agency also designed the Musiikkitalo concert hall in Helsinki, and it definitely has some familiar features,’ Saalas says, smiling.
Acoustic curtains in a glass cube
Industrial history is prominent in Sigyn Hall’s lobby. Old cranes and stairs that used to lead to the modelling rooms have been left in place. Steel, brickwork and glass provide an imposing setting for the café and restaurant, which also house the event buffets.
Actually, the dockyard hall only forms Sigyn Hall’s outer shell. The concert hall itself is a separate glass cube inside the old building.
‘Sigyn is a truly unique place and a fascinating piece of architecture – a concert hall with glass walls. Its acoustics have been carefully designed and fine-tuned,’ Saalas says.
Sigyn was originally built for the requirements of acoustic music, but during last summer’s extensive renovation work, the hall was technologically updated to serve a wider range of events. The renovation was planned by a familiar agency, LPR Architects, while the acoustics and performance technology was redesigned by Akukon.
‘Sigyn’s sound system was completely renewed and made adaptable. This makes it equally suitable for acoustic music, electrically amplified music and speech performances,’ says the Conservatory’s Head of Usage, Ville Pirttinen.
In practice, this is to do with reverberation, the optimal duration of which varies according to what a space is being used for. In other words, the reverberation in an acoustic concert hall is too long for an electric sound system.
‘The renovation gave Sigyn a set of motorised acoustic curtains, which can be lowered down when necessary to reduce the echo. When the curtains are down, the reverberation shortens from 2.1 seconds to 1.2 seconds,’ Pirttinen explains.
‘The tuner measured the reverberation of the acoustic and electric sound systems with and without the curtains. The difference was so significant that you could hear it with your own ears.’
Thanks to the acoustic curtains, lower and higher voices during events involving speech can be distinguished better. The hall also has both wireless and corded microphones, which cover the requirements of the most common event types.
‘The main sound system is stereo but includes also surround speakers around the audience if needed,’ Pirttinen says.
In addition to the curtains, the hall’s acoustics can be adjusted with remote controlled acoustic reflectors located above the stage. Their angles can be changed, as necessary.
‘As long as the acoustics and sound systems work, the audience will pay no attention to the soundscape itself but will focus on the actual performance. And, of course, functioning acoustics are also pivotal for the performers,’ says Pirttinen.
Lighting technology brings performances to life
In addition to the acoustic curtains inside the hall, Sigyn has new blackout curtains that can be lowered down on the outside of the glass walls.
‘The windows in the hall’s rear wall can also be covered. Darkening the space is often necessary to allow the performance and the hall’s lighting to be seen optimally,’ says AV Master Tapio Väntsi from Turku University of Applied Sciences.
While Pirttinen specialises in sound engineering, Väntsi’s area of expertise is lighting. Both are masters at using Sigyn’s modern performance technology.
‘When Sigyn Hall is rented out, one of the gentlemen is present throughout the event, managing the systems. In other words, the price includes both the personnel and our top-quality equipment,’ Saalas says.
The sound and lighting are adjusted using an open control panel, located high up at the back of the stands, whose capacity is over 300 seats. Similarly to the sound system, the hall’s lighting has undergone a complete reformation, updating it to meet the contemporary needs. Furthermore, all the lighting fixtures are modern LEDs.
‘Most of our top-quality lighting equipment are moving heads fixed in two lines which allow front and back light. Side lights can also be used, which is particularly important in performance arts,’ Väntsi says.
The hall’s lighting can be made to match the colours of a company or an association. Furthermore, the audience lights allow the atmosphere to be extended beyond the stage.
‘Lighting also adds elegance to otherwise casual events. And profile spotlights can be used to create sharp or fuzzy patterns, for example, on the wall or the side of the stage,’ Väntsi explains.
‘You can also choose to have a black or a white curtain at the back of the stage to project a landscape or some other imagery as background for your event.’
Väntsi also mentions theatrical fog, which can be used as a special effect at Sigyn Hall.
‘The fog forms a surface that the light can hit, making it visible. Fairly minor tricks can really spice up a performance.’
Video streams and recordings
A client’s requirements are carefully assessed before an event is held at Sigyn Hall. Väntsi and Pirttinen are happy to explain the possibilities offered by performance technology, but they also encourage people to share their own ideas. After all, the newly-renovated equipment is suited to a variety of needs.
‘These days, modern video technology also plays an important part, as it allows an event to be streamed or held as a hybrid event. Moreover, we can make a recording of it using multiple cameras,’ says Väntsi.
The hall’s moveable cameras allow the event to be streamed backstage, where speakers and performers are waiting for their turn.
‘The next performer can follow the progress on a monitor to know exactly what is happening. It feels nice not to have to be guessing when your turn might be,’ Saalas says.
He also reminds that performance art can add a bit of variety and value to otherwise purely verbal meetings and seminars.
‘A brief interlude during a meeting day can include circus, music, puppetry or pretty much anything else. Because Sigyn Hall is located at an art campus of two schools, we can easily create a one-of-a-kind performance.’
Even though the concert hall is not attached to the dockyard shell, the entertainment can involve a suspended moving load, such as an aerial acrobat using aerial silks.
‘During the renovation, a stronger support structure and a cable net were built above the stage, allowing people to walk up there and move the lighting equipment. It can also withstand a circus performance,’ Saalas says.
The newly renovated concert hall is an inspiring venue for events. It also enjoys a charming and central location surrounded by a beautiful cultural landscape. Additionally, in the summer, events can be extended out to Varvintori square, the shores of the Aura River and the museum ship Sigyn.
Furthermore, meetings and congresses can take advantage of the nearby facilities, hotels and service providers, such as Forum Marinum, Turku Castle and Kakola. All of these are located on the same side of the river.
Text: Merja Kallikari
Image: Mika Okko