New cultural centre gives Belgian town a public performance arena
Rooted within downtown Soignies, Espace Victor Jara becomes the predominant feature of a new culture hub in the Belgian town, joining the Centre for Art and Culture and the Regency Library. The historic town of Soignies provides a serene backdrop to the thriving public space created by the architecture of the building, which acts as a sort of adult climbing frame and arena space to wile away the days on its steps and slopes, and ponder from its many vistas.
The building is named after Chilean playwright, musician and political peace activist Victor Jara, who, upon a military coup in his homeland, was arrested and killed after torture, immortalising him as a cultural icon.
Jara was known to promote the concept of a 'united population' and this is translated in Espace as truly public space where ownership is achieved by traversing the building's many levels - mountain-like with green roofs and a 'rough stone crust' - or indeed entering the space itself.
"The proposal goes beyond its initial ambition, which is the construction of a performing arts hall by including in its scope the rich outdoor carnival and local festivals," advise the architects, L’ESCAUT, who conceived the project for the Momentary Association l’Escaut-Weinand. "The project contains, in its morphology, the two sides of the local cultural dynamic: institutional culture inside the building, and popular culture outside and on the building, following the external walks and a stepped slope that doubles up as outdoors seating for street festivals, carnival and other events, or simply welcome occasional pedestrians."
Stepping within the building an airy foyer provides appropriate transition from the outside. Natural light is infused via a floor-to-ceiling semi-transparent wall. Deeper within the structure, its core is a 600 seat performance space, simple in design and acoustically treated. Telescopic seating allows for flexibility where the space can be used for community events as well as performances.
Niki May Young