Municipal theatre Arnhem
Municipal Theater Arnhem is the centre for performing arts in the east of the Netherlands. It offers a wide-ranging programme, from opera to cabaret, but also a stage for some of Arnhem's top national companies in modern dance, theatre and symphonic music. The ageing theatre building will be rigorously transformed, to remain a cultural innovator in the region. A thorough demolition will restore space to the monumental parts from the 1930s and the building will then be extended. The city theatre will soon consist of a transformed monumental auditorium for 725 people, a small new theatre and dance hall, a rehearsal and education hall and a series of foyers, some of which can also be programmed. The realisation of the new theatre building marks the first step in the metamorphosis of the Koningsplein area into an ecological urban oasis and campus for cultural initiatives.
An active theatre
The renovated theatre will be more than the sum of the halls. Namely: a place that inspires and invites the performing arts to connect directly with audiences and society, by offering opportunities to get out of the theatre setting, into the building and into the city. The public zones in the building form an open network of foyer and performance spaces on one level. This turns the entire building into a stage for culture and allows the organisation to programme adventurously and experiment with new formats, such as multidisciplinary festivals and location-specific works. This dynamic inner world is not a self-contained black box but is well-connected to its surroundings through multiple entrances and large windows on all sides. The new Lauwersgracht foyer has, for example, a city balcony facing the Singelpark, and a public gallery in the Waalsekerk foyer offers a view of the historic chapel of the monastry that once stood here during performances.
Oasis for urban nature and cultural initiative
The new city theatre plays a crucial role in the greening of the eastern city centre because it is surrounded by gardens. These gardens make the surroundings of the building a pleasant place to stay and meet, even when there are no performances. Together with the green roofs, façades and canopies, they also contribute to water retention and cooling in the otherwise mainly paved city centre. This city oasis will be a haven for flora and fauna in the centre of Arnhem. Some functions in the building are stacked, to give it as much space as possible, and the loading docks for loading and unloading heavy trucks have been concentrated in one place. This allows the area around the city theatre to become completely traffic-free, where urban nature and cultural initiatives have their own permanent place.
A natural theatre for everyone
The city theatre will be an inviting place where visitors with different backgrounds and preferences can feel at home. The building has different faces; the grandeur of a classic theatre on the Singel side, and informal and small-scale on the city centre side, where a second main entrance is located. The foyers will have different moods too, through a variety of dimensions and use of light and materials; warm, fresh, colourful, muted, rough, soft, wide, intimate. Everyone can find a place in the building. Moving around and staying in the building is natural and pleasant; the large staircase is a central landmark between all the rooms and foyers and from there everyone naturally finds their way. All the auditorium entrances and intermission facilities are on one level so that visitors who are less mobile have exactly the same experience as other audiences, without any hassle during the breaks.
Well-oiled theatre machine
All loading and unloading takes place at one loading dock for three large trucks in the centre of the building, between the two largest auditoriums, directly accessible from the Singel. This allows the backstage machine to operate extremely efficiently, with one central inner street, short distances and plenty of flexibility and overview. At the same time, all the other façades remain free of heavy logistics, so that public or office functions can be located there, and ensuring the building has no dead ends. The public area doesn’t cross these routes anywhere. The main auditorium will be fitted with a steeper gallery to guarantee an uninterrupted view of the stage, leaving the entrance to this area on the first floor. Therefore, the new main level for the public will be on the first floor, above the loading docks. With this set-up, the clusters of rooms, foyers and facilities can be closed or opened separately, allowing for different scenarios of simultaneous or partial use.
Historic architecture and new craftsmanship
The Municipal Theater Arnhem is a monument with unusual Art Deco details, built in 1938 on the site of a former monastery complex. The history of the site is a source of inspiration for the new building ensemble, but with a progressive view of the future: less environmental impact and in balance with the living environment. The monument will be restored to its former glory and prepared for the future; the new circular architecture becomes an extension of the old. The historic entrance area will return and immediately inspire the design of the new window and balcony of the Lauwersgracht foyer. The imposing brick surfaces with their subtle lines will be restored and the new façades of reclaimed brick continue this. The festive colour palette of the original interior of the main theatre, including blue, ivory, pink and gold leaf, is the inspiration for the new interior design. Old and new merge into one new whole.
Circular and biodiverse
Minimising new raw material sources and waste is the first basic value for circular construction. The new building will be extremely compact to minimise material and energy consumption, however, a lot of demolition work is necessary, in order for the theatre to function properly again. That demolition material therefore forms a raw resource for the construction, supporting the healthy indoor climate for people, plants and animals. The removed brick façade will be carefully cut so that it can be reused as elements, and the slots in-between can be used for bird nesting areas. The concrete and brick rubble will be used for new retaining walls in the gardens and the plinth of the façade, giving them an optimal surface structure for vegetation. Textiles from the floor carpets and old chair upholstery will also be reused, including, for example, the acoustic upholstery of foyer areas. The importance of a circular future is reinforced by building the small auditorium 100% from recycled materials.