Highly economical new theatre design retains expression of original modernist building
The Cinema Park Building was erected in the 1950s from plans by the modernist architect Franc Novak. Slowly falling into disrepair, it was still used for film shows until the new century, when it became obsolete due to the construction of a new multiplex.
A solution was found in a new, more ambitious programme: a conversion into a theatre and concert hall, preserving the designated landmark modernist building with a fitting new programme for a small city with a large theatre audience that previously lacked an adequate theatre space.
In this way, the city of Murska Sobota reinforces its position as a regional centre and at the same time preserves its exceptional example of modernist architecture. In relation to the existing structure, two concepts were introduced for the two segments of the project. The functional scheme of entry areas already included all the key elements: entrance loggia, lobby and the lower and upper foyers. These parts of the building were renovated, preserving as much original substance as possible. New functional elements were inserted into existing space as black elements conceived with minimal detail.
The existing auditorium's geometry was not suited to the new purpose, so it was replaced by a new, correctly proportioned auditorium space and a technically equipped theatre stage. Its size and equipment allows for guest performances from every theatre in the country as well as its own future productions with space and technical support on a par with all Slovene national theatres.
The volume of the original building is clearly delineated in the auditorium's structure, with the added stage volume, dressed in 'renaissance trousers' showing an appropriate compositional distance, retaining the autonomy of the original building's architectural expression and blending easily into the natural surroundings of city park.
Before the opening of the new theatre, the only location for theatre performances was a 150-seat multi purpose hall in the nearby baroque castle, which meant that every guest performance had to be performed twice for the theatre audience to see (this of course also increased the performance costs). Now, one performance suffices.
Concerts were performed in church, which somewhat narrowed down the selection of concert types – this is not an issue anymore. The number of community events has increased since the theatre's opening; in the mornings, larger cultural events for local high schools are also hosted here.
This August, Theatre Park successfully played host to Fronta, the International Dance Festival. The new theatre space enabled Murska Sobota to enter the European Capital of Culture programme as a partner city to the regional capital, Maribor. Since the theatre's opening, 90% of all performances sold out, which confirms the town's hunger for culture.
Modern stage technical equipment installed is on par a with, if not better than, equipment in all Slovene professional theatres, which means that there is no technical limit which would prevent theatres from bringing their performances to Murska Sobota. Newly installed HVAC technology follows all theatre regulations, specifically the noise emissions for maximum performance quality.
In the case of a small community with limited funds, these categories go hand in hand; and sensible energy use always means less environmental impact. Throughout the design process, special attention was given to investment costs and designing the building with low running costs.
With rational concept and transparent investment management, the small city of Murska Sobota (population 14,000) received the fifth largest and currently best equipped stage in the country. Running costs were reduced to minimum by providing heating and cooling energy via heat pumps from an already used geothermal installation.
After six months, average running costs for heating, cooling, ventilating and lighting come to only 3,300 EUR per month. We believe that more and more of our creative energy within the design process will soon be directed into limiting the consumption of natural resources and general environmental responsibility.