NewSchool of Architecture + Design

NewSchool of Architecture + Design

San Diego, CA


NSAD Professor Mitra Kanaani Develops Design for San Diego's Copley Symphony Hall

By NewSchoolSanDiego
Dec 21, '11 11:26 AM EST

Media Contact:
Anna Cearley
Tel. 1-619-684-8791
Cell. 1-619-301-3701

San Diego—November 30, 2011—Mitra Kanaani, professor of architecture at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design (NSAD), was inspired by her musical background when she was asked to design an architectural piece to mark the Seventh Avenue entrance of Copley Symphony Hall, the home of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

Prior to her career as an architect, Kanaani was a student at the Conservatory of Classical Music in Tehran, earning her degree in musicology. She then went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Master of Urban Planning from Tehran University. After graduating from the University of Tehran, she worked as an urban planner and piano teacher while also employed as a classical music producer. Once moving to the United State, U.S., she pursued architecture and earned a Master of Architecture at the University of New Mexico and a Doctor of Architecture from the University of Hawaii.

As an architect, music remains an influence in Kanaani’s life and work. In her assignment for the Seventh Avenue entrance for Copley Symphony Hall, her goal was to create an interactive architectural element “that is literally expressive of the function of the building, which is a center for music making.” She did this by developing a design concept wherein the entrance is adorned with musical notes and other distinct musical elements, such as a 14-foot sculptural bass clef.

“I made it very important to be very literal by enhancing the building and expressing its identity through the usage of musical elements. Currently, the entrance of the hall from Seventh Avenue introduces no sense of identity,” Kanaani said. “The proposed design incorporates conceptual elements that signify the transition of musical styles—from the music of the Middle Ages to avant-garde—by literally introducing geometrical elements of Middle Ages musical notations above the façade of the recessed entrance of the hall to a series of staff lines that introduce modernistic graphical notations.”

The large bass clef, which acts as the visual climax of the piece, also has a structural purpose in anchoring the piece through a foundation in the basement of Copley Hall, Kanaani said. Kanaani said that the notes do not represent any particular piece of music: “The design signifies music in abstraction as a transition of music in visual forms throughout the ages.”

Architecture and music have some commonalities, Kanaani said. “They are both ways of expressing certain concepts. In music and other arts as well as architecture, there is a sensual interaction of the poetics and aesthetics. However, in architecture, there is an additional materiality component and the expectation for functionality and use.”

In this particular piece, she said, the conceptual idea toward the goal for “identity” has undertaken an expressive role to make up for the shortcomings of the building. The goal is to improve the identity of the hall within the context of the existing urban environment, she said.
Kanaani was also involved in creating the designs for two large banners that stretch 60 feet by 104 feet along the sides of the building structures that surround Copley Symphony Hall. She also designed a mural for the Eighth Avenue façade of Copley Hall.

About the NewSchool of Architecture and Design

NewSchool of Architecture and Design (NSAD), founded in 1980, is located in San Diego, California. NSAD is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). ACICS is listed as a nationally recognized accrediting agency by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. NSAD’s Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Architecture and Executive Master of Architecture programs are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). NSAD also offers a pre-professional Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media Arts, a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management, a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, a Master of Landscape Architecture, a Master of Construction Management and a Master of Science in Architecture.
For more information, visit