La Philharmonie de Paris

Simulate airflows to re-open safely cultural venues

From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the teams at Dassault Systèmes were involved in various airflow and particle dispersal simulation projects. Conducted in close collaboration with doctors, these projects aim to help identify the risks of airborne transmission, and to determine simple solutions to reduce these risks. The Philharmonie de Paris wanted to draw on this expertise in order to prepare the safest possible conditions for the return of spectators and orchestras to the Pierre Boulez Symphonic Hall.



After having created the “Virtual Twin” of the Hall, and assuming it is full at maximum capacity, Dassault Systèmes experts ran simulations to understand how air moves within the hall, in order to assess the effectiveness of the public health measures implemented by the Philharmonie de Paris and, if necessary, to propose other measures.

Safety is nonnegotiable, for our public, artists and staff. This is why we decided to partner with Dassault Systèmes. Thanks to their cutting-edge simulation technology, we are prepared to reopen our concert hall in the best possible conditions

Laurent Bayle
Managing Director, Philharmonie de Paris

Study of the movement of air in the hall

The Pierre Boulez Symphonic Hall at La Philharmonie de Paris is equipped with a truly unique ventilation system, allowing not only excellent distribution of new airflow throughout the hall, but also remarkably quiet ventilation. Furthermore, the hall’s dimensions and its particular architecture and airflows liken it to an open and unconfined space. Consequently, the movement of air in the Pierre Boulez Symphonic Hall is very specific: All of the airflows converge just in front of the stage, where they rise naturally towards the extraction zones located in the ceiling.

Assessment of the effectiveness of the public health measures

The airflow simulation reveals two main areas to assess for reducing particle dispersal risks:
•    the effectiveness of using face masks;
•    the effect of reducing the ventilation regime.

Effectiveness of using face masks

Multiple scenarios were simulated to verify whether the use of face masks protects both the audience and the orchestra.

The animations above illustrate the concentration of particles emitted when a contaminated person seating in the audience, coughs without a mask, with a surgical facemask, and with a facemask fitted. At this level, the contamination risk is always lower for each scenario, benefitting even in the first case of a very limited dispersion thanks to the ventilation system. 
With regard to the orchestra, given that the air moves towards the musicians’ backs, risk of transmission from the audience appears highly improbable. Risk is further reduced by the use of face masks. The conductor, likewise, does not appear to be in an at-risk location.

Assessment of the effect of a reduced ventilation regime

Limiting the travel of air emitted by a contaminated person provides additional protection: Indeed, reducing by half the volume of air injected by the seats slows the air speeds, without taking away the benefit of air being directed along the seats. 
This benefit is distinctly illustrated by the worst-case scenario of a person coughing without a mask. It clearly appears that the dispersal of particles is very significantly reduced with lower ventilation,  which also limits the potential impact on the person seated in the row ahead. 

Study findings

In terms of preventing transmission, the Pierre Boulez Symphonic Hall has clear advantages thanks to its unique ventilation system allowing for well-oriented, low-speed airflows. By combining personal protection measures, such as wearing a fitted mask, along with reduced ventilation, risks of airborne transmission (by aerosols) to the audience and orchestra appear to be greatly reduced. 

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