Toni Gauthier

Finely Tuned

Hailed for its acoustics, Bing Concert Hall is also seen as an instrument for changing Stanford's profile in the arts.

With the right lighting, the sturdy, fez-shaped building appears like something from another world, an outlier amid the sandstone-and-tiled architecture that dominates the Stanford landscape. And it would not be hyperbole to say there has never been anything like it on the Farm.

After decades of yearning for a world-class performing arts venue, years of planning and two years of construction, the Bing Concert Hall has finally arrived. It has been heralded as a transformational step forward in Stanford’s efforts to elevate the arts, and celebrated for exquisite acoustics.

Perhaps no other single building in Stanford’s history has carried with it so many dreams and expectations. Its location just off Palm Drive and an easy walk from the Cantor Arts Center positions the hall geographically and symbolically near the front of campus—a landmark meant to signal the importance of the arts at Stanford. Hopes are high that the building will foster a flourishing of teaching, learning and performance.

Officially, the Bing Concert Hall opens January 11 with a concert and attendant fanfare. But first comes that moment of anticipation—like the dramatic pause when the conductor raises the baton, and the audience collectively draws its breath—where everything, expected and not, can happen.

In Egypt’s ancient Alexandria, the Odeum, a theater from the Roman occupation, was renowned for its mysterious “sweet spot”: an otherwise unremarkable coordinate on the dusty stage where you could speak quietly and yet be heard in the uppermost row of the surviving marble seats. One step to the left or right and the effect is gone.   read more…