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Théâtre de la Piscine

contributed by 323 World Architecture Festival , 2 June 2009


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Description Théâtre de la Piscine:

“I wanted to make an extremely intimate theatre with an interesting ceiling. I wanted people to find themselves in a pleasant space before the performance, so I introduced this horseshoe shape, this hull crowned with a skylight. I wanted to stage a kind of play on light, with this oculus that disappears when the panels are closed. The spectators’ gaze flees skywards and the natural light shines down on them in a representation that crosses between the gaze and a dialogue with time that is found in other spaces of the project.” This is how Nicolas Michelin explained the origins of a project that harbours hidden events inside: the oculus that is eclipsed like the moon, the glass roof of the walkway dappling the white hull of the theatre with coloured light, the gallery unfurling to an unseen end.

The cultural complex features three distinct entities: the theatre, the music and dance conservatory, and the music café; the project develops around a centred plan that creates a unitary building in dialogue with the existing architecture of the old incineration plant built by Paul Sirvin in 1930.

The theatre is placed at the heart of an ensemble created by the preserved old factory and the new “cascading” volumes that house the theatre foyer, the conservatory rooms and the current music rooms. The building,both existing and new,revolves around the theatre. This composition expresses the diversity of the activities housed here, while marking the unity of the cultural complex. The conservatory and its auditorium fill the extension wing, which encloses the courtyard.

Circulation is brought together by a covered indoor street with a coloured-glass roof that runs between the theatre and the buildings of each entity. The 550-seat theatre acts as a landmark for visitors and the complex’s users. Designed with a complex steel structure, the theatre was initially imagined with a wooden hull, which was eventually made in plaster for budgetary reasons. This is when the idea of colouring the glass arose, turning the white volume of the auditorium into something almost immaterial and offering a shifting perception in relation to the course of the sun and changes in the weather. The interior is clad in wood: mahogany-tinted beech slats. It is the inner interior.

The technical areas—storage for equipment and sets—are distributed around the stage shaft, which is directly linked to the delivery bay. The rehearsal room is placed behind the shaft, while above it are the dressing rooms and the artists’ lobby.
When you access the building, a succession of spaces follows one after the other: the square, the stairs, the arched columns, followed by the low transitional volume that suddenly opens onto the coloured hull. They condition the gaze with their contrasting intensities of light.

Photograph by: Antoine Pierre

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Châtenay-Malabry, France

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