Six inspirational projects selected for the WAN Performing Spaces 2015 shortlist

Lydia O’Callaghan
30 Jun 2015

The WAN Performing Spaces Award celebrates and promotes the best in international architecture for performing arts venues, attracting entries from all over the world and providing a global platform to showcase designs. The process of creating a space that engages, enthuses and excites is a complex but ultimately rewarding one. A building that enriches the experience for performer, audience and technician should also champion the architect, consultant and acoustician. 

Recently WAN AWARDS hosted a jury session to anaylse the 16 Longlisted projects where the jury were tasked with selecting just six to be shortlisted. From these six schemes, a single winner would be chosen for their performing space project. Our judges were looking for schemes that not only addressed the key elements of the brief but also showed specific examples of how the building has evolved into its specialised building type, through design and materials to push the performing spaces typology forward.

The WAN AWARDS provides the perfect platform to get architectural work firmly into the limelight of our highly esteemed judging panel and this year, on board to judge the Performing Spaces catergory was Gerbrand Borgdorff, co-founder and business director of Theateradvies bv; Michael Hammond, Editor in Chief at World Architecture News; Barry Pritchard, Executive Director of Aedas Arts Team and David Staples, consultant at Theatre Projects. 

First to be selected for the shortlist was The Theatre School, DePaul University in Chicago, United States by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. The intention for this project was to create a design with dual purposes: to present, for the public, street views of what the students are learning and to create a teaching and performance facility that provides best-practice opportunities for the students, faculty and theatergoers. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects’ scheme allows the blend and flow of various components within the building rather than isolating them. Wide corridors, open lounges and rooftop courtyards encourage interaction; whislt the interior courtyard brings light, views and air to offices and design studios. The jury were particliary taken with this project, with Gerbrand Borgdorff commenting ”There is good communication between the outside and the inside, it’s simple”. 

Milton Court in London, United Kingdom by Aedas Arts Team was also selected as one of the shortlisted projects. This scheme provides a place where students can comfortably learn and perform but also where world class artists can give recitals and master-classes in the new annexe to the Barbican Arts Centre, of which the Conservatoire Guildhall School of Music and Drama is an integral part. As there was a conflict of interest David Staples and Barry Pritchard stepped out of the room, leaving  Michael Hammond and Gerbrand Borgdorff to judge. Michael Hammond said ”This building is defined by its fantastic auditorium, we keep going back to the main image of the auditorium, the combination of its configuration, the warmth of the wood panelling, the detailing -  all  brought to life by the dramatic lighting. Magical. Who wouldn’t want to be there?”

Next to be selected was The Han Show Theatre in Wuhan, China by Stufish Entertainment Architects. As there was a conflict of interest again David Staples stepped out of the room for the judging of this project. The other jurors felt when looking through the submission that this project had a wow factor and was worthy of a shortlist spot. This technologically ambitious 2000 seat theatre houses the theatrical, acrobatic water spectacle ‘The Han Show’, by Franco Dragone. Based on the Chinese lantern, the building’s design was informed by three unique performance features: moveable auditorium seats, a 10 million liter performance pool, and three moveable LED screens which were designed to be the largest in the world and to add an ever-changing cyclorama to the stage. Gerbrand Borgdorff said ”It’s a beautiful way of putting on the show”.  

Also picked for the shortlist was Paloma in Nîmes, France by TETRARC. The complex consists of two concert halls, seven rehearsal and recording studios, six accommodation areas for the performers in residence, administration offices and the all-important technical facilities.  TETRARC had devised a form with a zinc shell. Barry Pritchard commented on how unsuaul it was, saying ”It looks as though it’s landed from outer space”. Inside the architects used the colours of the bullfight for the foyer, the stairs and the patio; red in the foyers at the entrance to the two halls; the geometry of the bullfighter’s movements are represented by the congealed textures on the walls. ”It’s vibrant” said David Staples. 

Next to be selected on the shortlist was Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral in Mexico city, Mexico by Broissin Architects. The striking white concrete façade is inteneded to represent the purity and originality of Mexican music, inside, the red concert hall represents the Mexican composers’ passion. Broissin Architects stated that ”step-by-step, the visitor discovers the project, a soft merge between nature and man intervention”.  All the judges were taken with this scheme. Barry Pritchard said ”I like the contrast of the materials, it works on all levels” whislt David Staples said ”It’s an attractive building to approach”.  

Last but not least Warren and Mahoney were selected for the shortlist with their project Isaac Theatre Royal that’s located in Christchurch, New Zealand. This project highlighted the importance of restoration for a cities’ historic buildings.  The project brief was to integrate restoration and reinstatement with a new (concealed) structure, foundations and fire strategy after the building experienced massive seismic disruption during the 2010/11 earthquakes in Christchurch. As the first major entertainment venue to reopen for business in the CBD, the project returns culture, heritage, splendour and enjoyment to Christchurch. This project provides long-term value for money through innovative, well-engineered solutions which will provide for future durability and adaptability. All the judges were taken with this project, with Gerbrand Borgdorff saying ”The restoration work is fantastic, it’s a nice auditorium”.

The opportunity to design a performing space has always been one of the most sought after commissions for an architect, so huge congratualtions to all of the six shortlisted projects of this specialist category. Details of the winning scheme will be announced on 14th July 2015. 

Lydia O’Callaghan

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