Photo © Jan Paul Mioulet, All images courtesy of UNStudio
With construction having recently completed, the UNStudio-designed ‘Theater De Stoep‘ opens its doors on 9th of October to serve as a prominent cultural institution for the Dutch city of Spijkenisse. The structure’s composition coheres disparate program elements – including two separate auditoria – through a distinctive white roof form which sweeps in a unifying gesture, elevated above a lower glass volume.
The theater’s design delivers on its predominant experiential demands of, ‘creating a world of illusion and enchantment’, while also acknowledging the building’s social and public spaces. Namely, a prominent foyer area interconnects the facility, while providing an area for gathering which is complemented by various program elements such as seating and cafés.
While the theater, as a general building type, is intended as a place for escape the everyday and engaging with a fabricated reality, the design of ‘Theater De Stoep’ simultaneously considers the social aspects of gathering at a public and cultural institution. UNStudio describes the facility seeks to provide experiences of ‘contrasting realities’, which include, ‘the world of the other, of fabrication, of expression and display, but simultaneously the very real sentient experience of ourselves as spectators within these worlds.’
In regards to the significance of theater experiences, architect and co-founding principal of UNStudio Ben Van Berkel states:
‘In contrast to today’s mediatized culture, theater offers the participatory experience of the live event, often appropriately referred to as ‘liveliness’: the ‘magic of live theater’, understood as the strange, elusive energy between audience and performer, the community forged together and the momentary collaboration necessitated by the live event.’
The 5,800 sqm facility features a larger auditorium, able to accommodate 650 guests, and a smaller hall with 200 seats. These performance spaces are complemented by a grand café, restaurant, artists’ café, VIP lounge, numerous dressing rooms, multifunctional rooms, and offices. In describing the building’s prominent foyer, which interconnects various spaces together, ben van berkel remarks: ‘the vertical foyer becomes a pivotal point in the social functioning of the theater, a ‘stage’ for the visitors and a dynamic focal point surrounded by viewpoints on different levels.’
Due to the auditoria’s functional and acoustical flexibility, the ‘theater de stoep’ is able to host a wide variety of performance types, including plays, operas, cabaret, musicals, concerts, youth theater, and dances. Recently developed software allow for a high degree of control over sound qualities, through operable ceiling panels which can be raised, lowered, and angled to optimize desired conditions.
The design’s lighting and color treatment help to inform the theater’s experience both in the performance halls and in the public areas. Large glass walls allow for ample daylight in the foyer areas, while purple LEDs integrated with the upper portion of the façades produce an alternative mood in the evenings.