Photo, Thomas Scelo

World leading Performance Venue Acoustician joins ÅF


World leading Performance Venue Acoustician joins ÅF

Thomas Scelo is a world leading performance venue acoustician with more than 40 prestigious projects in his portfolio. Philharmonie de Paris, Melbourne's Hamer Hall and the Changsha Meixiho Intl Cultural Centre are just a few. We are happy to welcome Thomas as Performing Arts Senior Acoustician at ÅF Sound & Vibration as of May 1st 2019. We met with Thomas, to learn more about performance venue acoustics.

You have relocated from Hong Kong to Malmö, Sweden, to join ÅF Sound & Vibration. Why?

For several reasons, one being the opportunity to relocate to Europe. I am French, but I have spent several years abroad in Oceania and Asia where I have had the opportunity to work on some great live performance projects. The last seven years I have lived in Hong Kong, designing 16 performing arts centres across China.

The rapid pace is both good and bad. You never get bored, but at the same time the speed makes it difficult to treat each project with the care and attention it deserves. I would like to find the time to give each project the care and consideration needed to create unique performing arts centres. I want to better develop the relationship with the client, the architect and interact with the end user of the venue. The whole point of a performing arts venue is to facilitate the interaction between the musician or performer and the end user – the audience. It is time to broaden the horizon and look for projects in other parts of the world to diversify and keep learning.

There are always new things to learn and develop, also within acoustics. In my opinion, you are never fully trained. There should be no identical theatres in the world and that makes me curious and humble to continue exploring new designs, typologies, materials, techniques and even approaches to arts project delivery. That is another reason for joining ÅF Sound & Vibration - I can relate to ÅFs vision of making future. To me it indicates that you always strive to do better. We cannot grow fully just on yesterday's achievements, neither as a company nor as acousticians.

And last, the relocation is about quality of life. I want my daughter to grow up in a quieter environment that offers more space. That was the main motivation to come back to Europe.

Can you describe your new role at ÅF Sound & Vibration?

What I look forward to the most is to work with the team of experts at ÅF Sound & Vibration. I look forward to learn from them and share my knowledge in performance venue acoustics. I see the need for an open dialogue between acousticians. No-one will gain from keeping their expertise to themselves. Modern acoustic is a 50 year old science, there are still great opportunities to develop the acoustic discipline and its understanding as a design exercise supported by science and engineering.

As a Principal Acoustician I will manage and develop business within live performance venues, in the Nordics as well as internationally.

In performing arts centres, acoustics is of key importance. Could you describe the process of creating high quality venues for live performances?

When working with performing arts centres, it is important to understand the different stakeholders involved. As an example many well-known theatres, as architectural projects, were built at a certain time in history to fit a certain audience and location. This means that old theatres might not offer the flexibility needed to attract new acts and new audiences. As an acoustician, the task is to make the venue more relevant for today. One aspect is to understand the economic pressure on the venues, they need to survive without having to rely so heavily on subvention. Acousticians need to design venues that will attract the next generation and help sell tickets.

As an acoustician it is important not to re-do old prestigious projects or copy existing performing arts centres. One has to keep evolving and design for different acoustic requirements. There are some preconceptions on who are the users of an performance venue and who are the target audience. The idea that only ‘serious music’ is performed in these venues is now less true. The term itself is quite misleading! I find other musical styles and musicians to be as serious to their art. The opportunity to perform popular music should be an option in a modern performance venue. One of my tasks is to merge the two worlds - high and popular culture – to fit into one flexible venue. To me, a successful result is when live performances are made more available to everyone.

With Thomas Scelo’s expertise and portfolio ÅF Sound & Vibration will further develop the design offering and broaden the services within room acoustics and performing arts centres.