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Agora Theater
UNStudio

January 21, 2008 /

Lelystad, The Netherlands

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Photo: Christian Richters

The Agora Theatre is part of the masterplan for Lelystad by Adriaan Geuze, which aims to revitalize the pragmatic, sober town centre.

The theatre responds to the ongoing mission of reviving and recovering the post-war Dutch new towns by focusing on the archetypal function of a theatre: that of creating a world of artifice and enchantment.

Both inside and outside walls are faceted to reconstruct the kaleidoscopic experience of the world of the stage, where you can never be sure of what is real and what is not. In the Agora theatre drama and performance are not restricted to the stage and to the evening, but are extended to the urban experience and to daytime.

The envelope is generated in part by the necessity to place the two auditoriums as far apart from each other as possible for acoustic reasons. Thus, a larger and a smaller theatrical space, a stage tower, several interlinked and separate foyers, numerous dressing rooms, multifunctional rooms, a café and a restaurant are all brought together within one volume that protrudes dramatically in various directions.

This facetted envelope also results in a more even silhouette; the raised technical block containing the stage machinery, which could otherwise have been a visual obstacle in the town, is now smoothly incorporated.

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Photo: Christian Richters
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Photo: Christian Richters
All of the facades have sharp angles and jutting planes, which are covered by steel plates and glass, often layered, in shades of yellow and orange. These protrusions afford places where the spectacle of display is continued off-stage and the roles of performer and viewer may be reversed. The artists's foyer, for instance, is above the entrance, enabling the artists to watch the audience approaching the theatre from a large, inclined window.

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Photo: Christian Richters
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Photo: Christian Richters
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Photo: Christian Richters
Inside, the colourfulness of the outside increases in intensity; a handrail executed as a snaking pink ribbon cascades down the main staircase, winds itself all around the void at the centre of the large, open foyer space on the first floor and then extends up the wall towards the roof, optically changing colour all the while from violet, crimson and cherry to almost white.

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Photo: Christian Richters
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Photo: Christian Richters
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Photo: Christian Richters
The main theatre is all in red. Unusually for a town of this size, the stage is very big, enabling the staging of large, international productions. The intimate dimensions of the auditorium itself are emphasized by the horseshoe shaped balcony and by the vibrant forms and shades of the acoustic panelling.

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Photo: Christian Richters

The product of architecture can at least partly be understood as an endless live performance. As the architectural project transforms, becomes abstracted, concentrated and expanded, becomes diverse and ever more scaleless, all of this happens in interaction with a massive, live audience.

Today, more than ever, we feel that the specificity of architecture is not itself contained in any aspect of the object. The true nature of architecture is found in the interaction between the architect, the object and the public. The generative, proliferating, unfolding effect of the architectural project continues beyond its development in the design studio in its subsequent public use.

/Ben van Berkel

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Image courtesy UNStudio
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Image courtesy UNStudio
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Image courtesy UNStudio

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Image courtesy UNStudio

Facts about Agora Theater

Site area:

2.925 m2
Gross floor area: 7.000 m2
Capacity main hall: 753 seats
Capacity small hall: 207 seats

Architects:
UNStudio
Ben van Berkel
Gerard Loozekoot
Jacques van Wijk
Job Mouwen
Holger Hoffmann
Khoi Tran
Christian Veddeler
Christian Bergmann
Sabine Habicht
Ramon Hernandez
Ron Roos
Rene Wysk
Claudia Dorner
Markus Berger
Markus Jacobi
Ken Okonkwo
Jörgen Grahl-Madse
Hanka Drdlova

Executive architect:
B+M, Den Haag

Construction management:

BBN, Houten

Engineering:

Pieters bouwtechniek, Haarlem

Contractor:

Jorritsma Bouw, Almere

Photographed by Christian Richters

Client:

Gemeente Lelystad

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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