Drama fit for the theatre

15 Feb 2010

Monolithic Llotja theatre completes in the second city of Catalonia

Six years have passed since Mecanoo architecten won the design competition for the new Llotja theatre in Lleida, the second Catalan city after Barcelona, and with just one month until the doors open for all, the project is photo-fit for preview.

The much anticipated opening is set for 23 March, when the top-heavy theatre will begin fulfilling its purpose, although it has already passed its first occupational test acting as the opening venue for Llerida’s cultural season in January with a performance of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" to a full capacity crowd of over 1,000 theatre aficionados.

Working with local architects LABB arquitectura, Mecanoo have devised a performance and conference space across 37,500 sq m with a 1,000 seat theatre hall doubling as a congress hall, two further congress halls with 400 and 200 seats, a multifunctional space, 2 foyers, 9,500 sq m of parking, a 15,325 sq m public square, and 2,591 sq m office and retail space.

The dramatic cantilevered circumference of the building is glazed around the outer edge offering glimpses of colour and activity, while the lower pedestrian scene offers little sign of the happenings within, electing instead to draw visitors passed the earthy façade through small light emitting permeations. While bold, the architects advise La Llotja is appropriate to its surroundings: “Regarded from the large scale of the region, the building forms a link between the river and the mountain. Viewed from the urban scale, La Llotja and the river form a balanced composition. At street level the cantilevers of La Llotja de Lleida theater and conference centre provide protection from sun and rain.”

In fact, the Netherlands architects advise its Spanish surroundings inspired the design. Situated between the Seu Vella mountain and the Segre river, the contrasting Spanish surroundings are echoed in the design. Earthen stone cladding on the exterior contrasts with a light bathed interior, and vibrantly coloured accents representing the fruits of the region are used to distinguish between difference areas. The entrance hall and the multi-functional hall have a marble floor, while the foyer has a floor of mixed hardwood. Inside there are mainly white, plastered walls and either wooden or marble floors, whereas outside is stone.

The striking theatre hall is designed as an evening orchard with walls of dark wood in which trees of light have been cut out and a ceiling resembling the night’s sky.

Providing a new public space as well as a performance venue La Llotja utilizes space according to its surroundings and is divided according to function. Conference facilities, the theatre and VIP rooms are all separated within, navigated to using a single foyer. Restaurants with bars are located on the side of La Llotja facing the river and the square making the most of the surroundings as public space.

Visit the LABB arquitectura site.

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