Dancing to the tune of success

Wednesday 22 Jul 2009

UNStudio design selected for Dance Palace St. Petersburg

UNStudio’s design has been unanimously selected in the competition for a new dance theatre in the historical heart of St. Petersburg. The firm beat off competition from shortlisted Jean Nouvel, Snøhetta and ZAO to realise Dance Palace which will house The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, headed by the prolific choreographer Boris Eifman.

The 21,000 sq m theatre forms an integrated part of the European Embankment city quarter masterplan for a new urban square in the centre of St. Petersburg.

“The urban context of the building is essential to the design," said Ben van Berkel, Founder, UNStudio. "The Dance Palace is positioned on the square in such a way as to allow for unrestricted visibility towards the nearby Prince Vladimir and Peter and Paul cathedrals, thereby framing some of the most exceptional buildings in St. Petersburg.

"The sculptural qualities of the Dance Palace reflect those of the surrounding buildings in the masterplan, providing a connection to its surroundings yet still retaining saliency. A central main entrance is incorporated into the façade design in order to fully integrate the building into this lively public square.”

Providing an open and inviting theatre building with provision for 1300 guests (large auditorium 1000, small auditorium 300), transparency is achieved by a facade system of triangular cladding panels. The variation between opaque and perforated panels creates a controlled openness, depending on programme, views and orientation. Ben van Berkel explains this transparency creates 'a kind of stage for visitors to the theatre; a place to see and be seen.'

A horseshoe form,considered to be one of the most successful forms acoustically in ballet and musical theatre for both performer and spectator, was chosen in the design to enhance acoustics and afford a close proximity to the stage to create an intimate and collective experience for the spectator.

“An essential requirement when we were designing the auditorium was to make it possible to see the dancer’s feet from every seat in the hall at all times, no matter where the performer was positioned on the stage," adds Ben van Berkel.

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