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Are there TOO Many Cultural Centers?

The TAUBMAN MUSEUM OF ART in Roanoke, Virginia, USA, one of the Case Studies of the Report.
Architects: Randall Stout Architects, Inc.; Associate Architects: Rodriguez Ripley Maddux Motley Architects.

In a word, yes.

While the Cultural Policy Center of the University of Chicago would never put it that way, that is essentially the conclusion of their “Set in Stone” Report, released today.

The Report, a consolidation of 15 years of research involving over 800 building projects and 500 organizations, gathered hard evidence to find out: what influences a cultural building’s success or failure? The question is a relevant one: between 1994 and 2008 there has been a building boom of performing arts centers, museums, and theaters in the U.S., costing cities billions of dollars. And unfortunately, supply has outrun demand.

The biggest problem the Report identifies is that cities and towns, many of which have recently experienced improved education/income and enthusiastically undertake these projects, often overestimate the actual need for these centers in their communities. Thus, when they run into financial difficulties (most do: over 80% of the projects surveyed ran over-budget, some up to 200%), the centers become economic drains rather than cultural boons.

In other words: Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean they will come.

So what does make for a successful Cultural Center? More after the break…

Click here to view the embedded video.

As Carroll Joynes, co-founder and senior fellow at the Cultural Policy Center, explains “Although increased education and income are usual predictors of demand for music, performance and museums, actual vs. predicted attendance does not follow a scientific formula.” There is no guarantee that these venues will accomplish their lofty goals.

However, there were some commonalities to the most successful projects: (1) A clearly defined need; (2) Constant, accountable leadership; (3) A realistic & maintained budget (with guaranteed funding in place before the project begins); and (4) Flexibility of post-use revenue sources.

The Final Report hopes to act as a kind of How-To Guide, to help cities and towns through this often arduous process. But the information is relevant to architects as well, as a reminder: the true cost their “signature work” could have on the very people it’s meant to enrich.

ABOVE: The boom of cultural centers in the US from 1998 to 2004. BELOW: Supply for cultural centers has outpaced demand. Via the Set in Stone Report of the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago.

Interesting Facts, as reported by the UChicago News

  • Cities in the South had the greatest increase in cultural buildings. The region had lagged behind the rest of the country prior to the building boom — the Northeast and West had twice the number of cultural facilities per capita in 1990 than did the South.
  • Increases in building were most common in communities with increases in personal income and in education among their residents; this was another reason why the South led in building expansions.
  • Spending was also strong across the rest of the country from 1994 to 2008. The New York area led the country in cultural building ($1.6 billion), while the Los Angeles area saw an expansion of $950 million and the Chicago area saw spending of $870 million on arts-related projects.
  • More than 80 percent of the projects studied ran over budget, some by as much as 200 percent.
  • Smaller cities with fewer than 500,000 people were building as well, and many of these cities were building for the first time. On a per capita basis, nine of the top ten spenders on cultural projects were in smaller cities. Pittsfield, Mass., for example, with a population of 44,700, led the list with a per capita expenditure of $605 for six projects at a total cost of more than $81 million.
  • More performing arts centers were built than any other kind of arts facility.

Story via UChicago News and the Set in Stone Web Site, particularly the Quick Overview

Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture

©

Architects: ACDF*
Location: Montreal, QC,
Design Team: Maxime Frappier, Louis-Philippe Frappier, Gabriel Villeneuve, Jean-Philippe Parent, Patrick Morand, Laurence Lebeux, Laure Giordani, Robert Dequoy, Simon Orman, Mathieu St-Hilaire, Veronique Taillefer, Denis Dupuis
Project Year: 2012
Photographs: James Brittain, ACDF*


Structure: PASQUIN ST-JEAN
M&E: PMA
Client: Royaume du Maroc

Located in the heart of Montreal, La Maison du Maroc is on of the first of several Moroccan culturalcenters planed for countries worldwide. The intention of the center is tostrengthen cultural ties within the Moroccan community abroad.The architectural aspect of the project consists ofthe extensive renovation of a four storey, 1960’s structure on the edge of thehistoric Vieux Port of Montréal.

First Floor Plan

Carefully contemplated modifications were made to the envelope allowing additional natural light toenter, while reinforcing the presence of the building on the dominant cornersite. However, the majority of the intervention was focused inward, dramatically transforming the building’s typical office floor plates into afunctional and dramatic space. The conceptual approach of the project references the traditional Moroccan riad house where the livingspaces are located around a central garden.

© James Brittain

It is this central open space that defines the heart of the complex, rather than the functions that surround it. In the case of La Maison du Maroc,a central double height void was cut out of the existing building mass to forma grand hall around which the cultural program was distributed.

© James Brittain

Multipurpose rooms, an exhibition spaces and classrooms serve to facilitate the objective ofcultural exchange. With the 12 000 volume library, exhibition hall, andlanguage school, the idea of cultural exchange is further reinforced. The newlyestablished heart serves both informal and formal gatherings large and small. The projects dominant internal feature, a substantialwood clad stair reorganizes the circulation of the building, and visually linksthe first and second floors as the public spaces unfold in richly textured finishes.

© James Brittain

The carefully selected finishes reflect the aesthetictraditions of Morocco, while reflecting the evolution ofmodernist Moroccan cultural heritage. Importedmosaic tiles installed by visiting Moroccan artisans line the main circulationspaces and the walls that surround the central hall.  The two storey,laser cut metal screens, filter the newly augmented natural light and animateshadows across the grand hall marking the passage of time throughout theday.  The grand opening in Montréal was well received by thelocal Moroccan community, Canadian dignitaries and visiting Moroccan Royalty.

Diagram

Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © ACDF*
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © ACDF*
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © ACDF*
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © ACDF*
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* © James Brittain
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* First Floor Plan 01
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* Second Floor Plan 01
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* Third Floor Plan 01
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* Fourth Floor Plan 01
Maison du Maroc / ACDF* Architecture / ACDF* Diagram 01

ME?CA – Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG

Courtesy of

Team BIG+FREAKS freearchitects, dUCKS sce?no, Khephren Inge?nierie, VPEAS, ALTO Inge?nierie, Vincent Hedont, PBNL, Mryk & Moriceau, Ph.A wins the competition to design a new 12 000 m2 cultural center on the riverfront of Bordeaux, merging three cultural institutions into one single building. More images and complete press release after the break.

Courtesy of BIG

The new Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine, ME?CA, located on the historical riverfront of Bordeaux will house three regional visual and performing arts agencies FRAC, the ECLA and the OARA in one single institution. The Regional Council of Bordeaux selected the winning team among proposals from SANAA, the Toulouse- based firm W-Architectures and Bordeaux-based FLINT.

BIG’s proposal arranges the new center for contemporary art, the performing arts institution and the center for literature and movies around a public space open towards the city of Bordeaux and the Garonne River. The building is conceived as a single loop of public space and cultural institutions as the pavement of the promenade rises to form the roof of the main lobbies, ascends vertically along the stage tower of OARA, bridges across the promenade with the sky lit galleries of the FRAC and returns vertically to the ground at the archives of the ECLA in order to reunite with the waterfront promenade.

Courtesy of BIG

“When a region or a city invests millions in a major new cultural institution – it often ends up benefiting only the informed few that already have an interest in the arts. Not only does the ME?CA spill its activities into the public realm and the urban room, but the public is also invited to walk around, through, above and below the new cultural gateway. By inviting the art into the city and the city into the arts, the ME?CA will provide opportunities for new hybrids of cultural and social life beyond the specific definitions of its constituent parts.” Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.

The urban room allows everyday life of Bordeaux to flow through its generous frame along the promenade, injecting the art into the city and the city life into the building. The multiple ramps and stairs of the building create an institution that is publicly accessible and welcoming on the inside as well as the outside. The urban room and the informal seating of the stairs will make the ME?CA a lively place and a natural extension of the life along the Quai de Paludate street and the new promenade. During festivals or other special occasions in the city, the outside of the ME?CA can be transformed into a stage for outdoor concerts, theatrical spectacles or art installations.

Courtesy of BIG

“The urban room is at once a frame for the artwork, a stage for the performances, a screening room for the media collections and most perhaps most importantly an open room for the urban life of Bordeaux to invade and engage with the arts.”, Andreas Klok Pedersen, Partner-in-Charge, BIG.

Tailored to accommodate the proportions of the performance spaces, the backstage requirements, the archives and the art galleries, the building is tailored to the needs and desires of its individual tenants while fused to form a single urban frame. The building and promenade is clad in the limestone which constitutes the majority of Bordeaux’s architecture. As if carved from the same material as the city itself – the stone is promenade and fac?ade, stair and terrace, roof and ceiling all together.

“The three regional entities composing the program are idiomatic to the French public way of supporting and promoting culture all over the territory. Working on the ME?CA building in Bordeaux is a great occasion to cross views and balance between international references and local issues.” Guillaume Aubry, Cyril Gauthier & Yves Pasquet, Founding Partners, FREAKS freearchitects.

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Architects: BIG
Location: Bordeaux,
Collaborators: FREAKS freearchitects, dUCKS sce?no, Khephren Inge?nierie, VPEAS, ALTO Inge?nierie, Vincent Hedont, PBNL, Mryk & Moriceau, Ph.A
Partner in Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Andreas Klok Pedersen
Project Leader: Gabrielle Nadeau
Project Architect: Jan Magasanik
Team: E?douard Champelle, Lorenzo Boddi, Yang Du, Karol Borkowski
Client: Conseil re?gional d’Aquitaine
Size: 12,350 sqm
Images: Courtesy of BIG

ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (1) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (2) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (3) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (4) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (5) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (6) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (7) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (8) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (9) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (10) Courtesy of BIG
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (11) elevation
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (12) elevation
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (13) elevation
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (14) elevation
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (15) model
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (16) model
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (17) model
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (18) model
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (19) model
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (20) model
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (21) model
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (22) model
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (23) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (24) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (25) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (26) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (27) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (28) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (29) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (30) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (31) plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (32) section
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (33) section
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (34) site plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (35) site plan
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (36) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (37) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (38) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (39) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (40) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (41) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (42) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (43) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (44) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (45) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (46) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (47) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (48) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (49) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (50) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (51) diagram
ME?CA - Maison de l’E?conomie Cre?ative et de la Culture en Aquitaine / BIG (52) diagram

Teruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos

Architects: Mi5 Arquitectos
Location: Plaza de Domingo Gascón, ,
Proyect Year: 2012
Project Area: 5000 sqm
Photographs: Miguel de Guzmán

 

© Miguel de Guzmán

Teruel’s underground, as thematic parks as Dinópolis want to spread, is full of discoveries that remind us the lost existence of a powerful life in the origins of the province. It’s surprising that we have to return to its deepness to try to reactivate it.

The decision of introducing a big volume of youth activities into the earth, that revitalizes and empowers Teruel’s activity, impulses the image which we work in the project. The public space and leisure center project takes a buried Godzilla’s expression: a telluric element of contemporary and pop expression.

The big buried volume pushes the earth surface till it brakes and produces a new urban topography. The visitants will settle this surface that becomes into a public square, and they will go down in between the stratums, being entertained by meeting activities, fun and sports. The new activities and their contemporary manifestation, make evident new ways of urban dialogue, especially in a city where history has taken up such an important space. It is the discovery of new possibilities of expression and in a daring appropriation of them, is where we consider that its potencial lies.

Teruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos © Miguel de GuzmánTeruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos Plan 01Teruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos Section 01Teruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos Diagram 01Teruel-zilla / Mi5 Arquitectos Diagram 02

Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects

© Ed Massery

Architects: Renaissance 3 Architects
Location: Pittsburgh, ,
Client: Hill House Association
General Contractor: Massaro Corporation
Project Area: 20,500 sqf
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Ed Massery

Designed by Renaissance 3 Architects, the Kaufmann Program Center transforms a celebrated community landmark. This newly revamped community center is a model setting for musical, cultural, and arts performances as well as community events.

More than 70,000 people each year seek help from the Hill House Association, a century-old nonprofit service organization in Pittsburgh’s most well-known African-American neighborhood. The existing building, in dire need of renewal, acted as a community gathering place for residents and civic organizations, and over the years has attracted notable musicians, authors, artists, and statesmen. As such, the project entailed an extensive gut of a dilapidated interior space and a comprehensive renovation for an auditorium, classrooms, café, and administration to reconnect the building to the community.

© Ed Massery

The original building completed in 1928 was designed by Edward Stotz, with classical columns, a limestone exterior, and a long stone staircase. R3A won a 2011 AIA award of excellence in historic preservation by effectively restoring and improving every component of the landmark, including the monumental staircase leading to the lobby and reconnecting the street to the building.

Longitudinal Section

The addition encompasses an outdoor community courtyard and a glass-enclosed café where people can sit, eat, and watch performances in the courtyard. Meeting rooms on the second and third floors were established that provide excellent views of the courtyard. At night, colored, translucent resin panels lit by LED lights light up the public courtyard and façade.

© Ed Massery

The refurbished auditorium can hold 424 people, including 204 in the old wooden seats in the balcony. The balcony seats are original to the building and have been refinished and reupholstered in elegant red and gold fabric. The new seats on the first floor are movable to effectively modify the space.

© Ed Massery

Not only does this venue serve the community with its redesigned state-of-the-art performance space with improved acoustics and seating, it also allows the community to enjoy outdoor events through the amphitheatre seating within the redesigned public courtyard.

Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects © Ed Massery
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects First Floor
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects Second Floor
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects Third Floor
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects Longitudinal Section
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects Front Elevation
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects Sketch
Kaufmann Program Center / Renaissance 3 Architects Sketch
DSC_0044 Model
DSC_0049 Model

The Soweto Theatre / Afritects

Architects: Afritects – Laurence Chibwe, Sergio Duarte, Tony de Oliveira
Location: , South Africa
Completion: May 2012
Total Area: 5,900 sqm
Client: Johannesburg Property Company (JPC
Photographs: Courtesy of Afritects

Chosen Medium
Performance requires an audience and performers. Theatre requires performance with a disconnection from the outside world, a sealedbox to hold an audience and performers. This space is known as the black-box in the theatre world. Performance spaces in apartheid-oppressed Soweto were historically nomadic. With no dedicated venues-theatres were make-shift, temporary and sidelined: any ‘box’ would have to do. In the absence of a formal theatre space, what did manage to developwas a performance-atmosphere that was relaxed, accessible and unintimidating with the focus being on entertainment: precisely the desired escape, or reprieve, needed from thereality and regulations of the time.

Target Audience
Johannesburg City identified the long overdueneed for a public theatre in Soweto, post-apartheid. A formal theatre space with its specialised facilities would serve a large community of theatre goers in Soweto as well as provide the opportunity for performers to fully showcase their talent. Although the need for this spacewas obvious, the response to this brief couldn’t be. Simply providing generic infrastructure without examining the existing theatre-culture of Soweto (regardless of whether it was previously formalised by a dedicated space or not) would not respond to this communities’ expectations of what a theatre should be, and ultimately not be a space that the community (specifically the community of Jabulani, Soweto where the theatre is located) would embrace and feel was theirs to use and enjoy.

Innovation
What would then define theatre-space for a theatre-less community with a long, matured and astute theatre-culture? The conceptfor the building needed to allow for state-of-the-art facilities fitting the dramatic echelon of Soweto whilst retaining the freedom of spirit that made performance in Soweto so enticing in the first place.A new-brand of brand-new theatre needed to be invented. The existing theatre typology; the monolithic, impenetrable, secretive-mass with one- almostreluctant- public-gesture (the front door)would go against the ethosof Soweto’s theatre community.

The intention was to demystify and beguile the community to this much needed, yet foreign facility. The humble performance -box became the focus;it was to be completely visible both inside and outside of the building. As the Soweto Theatre brief called for a collection of three performance spaces (seating 430, 180 and 90 patrons respectively), these three spaces were each highlighted and made identifiableon the building’s exterior. The inner workings of the theatre complex express themselves outwards to the community as highly visible beacons in the landscape,enticing the audience in.

Execution
Separating and giving clear identity to each of these performance boxes offered a design challenge. As buildings comprise of serviced and service spaces (theatres by nature are highly serviced spaces) an architectural device had to be included to separate these elements. The wing walls that flank the building contain the theatre service spaces (ablutions, offices, stairwells, kitchens, store rooms, air-movement systems etc) and frame the three performance venues (the served spaces)whilst defining the internal, street-like,foyer spaces around the performance boxes.

The shapes of these boxes were given further identity withcurved edges and corners. Skylights and glass floors detach the boxes from the concrete floors of the building. Each box was then given its own identity with a different colour using various shades and finish of red, blue and yellow ceramic tiles.The interior remaining the black box that makes theatre possible and the exterior colours representing the vibrancy, personality and excitement associated with theatre in Soweto. 200 000 ceramic tiles adorn the walls of the performance boxes, each tile laid individually by tradesmen from the local community.

Relevance
A community’s voice is too often overwhelmed by more powerful and influential individualsfor a project with this history and gravity. The relevance here is however not that the community’s voice was heard, but rather the evidence of what that voice has created. The Soweto Theatre is professional venue unlike any of its class; sophisticatedand state-of-the-art whilst remaining approachable and inviting towardsthe community it belongs to Sergio Duarte.

2.0 Project Background
With the development of a new iconic performing arts drama theatre, Johannesburg’s historic township, Soweto, is likely to become a new destination of interest for connoisseurs of the theatrical art and the public in general. Soweto is an international city regarded for its illustrious and infamous past. It chronicling its history, the township does have a dearth of historical protests, arts and cultural movements aside a lack of decent human settlements.

Recently, as a consequence, there has been teeming infrastructural, residential and commercial investment poured into this ‘city within a city’. From a new public transport system, BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) to the new Jabulani / Zola District Hospital, an upgraded Orlando Stadium including various retail developments such as the Maponya and Jabulani Malls, Soweto is expanding! Not in a sense of urban sprawl but rather in its ability to sustain and develop its residents.

Enter; the new Soweto Theatre bringing a significant contribution to the rich arts and cultural context of this township, which already greatly contributes to the country’s tourism revenue in the form of local and international visitors coming to partake in its historical sites. The new theatre is in the heart of a culturally rich area within Jabulani (a neighbourhood of Soweto). The new theatre establishes its home in a public park right next to the famous Jabulani amphitheatre, at which many significant events took place historically.

The objectives of this project were to provide a fitting and versatile venue for the advancement and sharing of arts and culture in the area, and to assist in furthering the economic and social development of arts and culture in Soweto. The brief to Afritects (the project architects) was simply to design 3 venues for the performance of arts and culture as given by Johannesburg Property Company (JPC). The precinct was thus conceived to house primarily theatrical performances but would also accommodate musical and dance productions including choral performances. Additionally, the facility would also host festivals, conferences, meetings and community gatherings.

Afritects succeeded in carving out an innovative design, which has heightened hope and anticipation for the success of the precinct, from the community to various stakeholders. It is anticipated that this project would be an inspirational springboard for similar developments in Soweto. Former Johannesburg Executive Mayor, Amos Masondo said the addition of the theatre to the neighbourhood was “an important part of transforming Soweto from a mere dormitory into a normalised neighbourhood. We are striving to change Soweto into a sustainable human settlement that is known not just as a place where people come from but where people also go to.”

His sentiments are shared by the City’s Director of Arts, Culture and Heritage Services, Steven Sack. “We want to turn Soweto into a viable neighbourhood that has facilities you find in the inner city, including entertainment and recreational facilities of the very best Johannesburg could offer.”

3.0 Building Description
The Soweto Theatre is an aggregation of both national and global best practice standards in theatre design. Various local and international theatres were studied, extracting only important aspects, to replicate in the Soweto Theatre. Furthermore, renowned technical specialists were brought on board the professional team to ensure the theatre’s design resulted into top-notch acoustics and lighting. From a distance the theatre displays brightly coloured and curved “boxes” of varying sizes. On closer inspection, it is revealed that the Soweto Theatre comprises three performing venues.

The largest is a 420-seat venue with a fixed stage and tiered seating. It has a full orchestra pit, a bridge for a fly tower and wings. The other two venues comprise a 180-seater and 90-seater flat-floor theatre respectively. The two latter venues have added flexibility, as they are not equipped with a fixed stage or seating. Facilities include an orchestra pit, fly tower and shared backstage facilities between the three performance venues. Outside of the theatre is a special public space – a foyer that can be used as an additional performance area, a social gathering place during intermission or just as a pause area. There is a tensile structure or canopy covering this space providing shade.

The east and western sides of the theatre boxes are defined by curving fortress walls (blinkers) containing all other ancillary spaces. One of the most challenging features of the theatre, and arguably the most daunting to achieve, was the curved walls. The design has incorporated curves into walls that curve both horizontally and vertically, creating a parabolic shape, which was truly an engineering challenge that resulted in an iconic building.

The external and internal walls are sloped and curved for functionality as the service spaces on the upper floors (offices/boardrooms) required more space than the public ablutions on the ground floor; this gives the wing walls their distinctive, top-heavy profile.

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