Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
The Soweto Theatre in Gauteng, South Africa by Afritects
July 1st, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Afritects
The brief for the Soweto theatre was to create a public performing arts centre that the community of Soweto, South Africa would feel invited to use, enjoy and take ownership of. The concept of the building has evolved the existing typical theatre typology; the monolithic, impenetrable, secretive-mass with one- almost reluctant- public-gesture (the front door) has now become an open, legible and inviting space. All of the inner workings of the theatre are expressed outwards, beguiling and enticing its community in.
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 identifiable on 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.
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 with curved 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.
The choice to position the building in a public park along a busy pedestrian route, used my many members of the community for their daily commute, further integrates the community and the building physically. The outdoor foyer, below the tensile structure, is a public gesture that is always open as a community meeting point.
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