This open international competition sought designs for a new theatre – la Nouvelle Comédie de Genève – on the site of the old freight railway station at Eaux-Vives. The programme suggested that an industrial’ aesthetic would be appropriate, and this in turn indicated an approach that would produce an economic solution. This reminded us of the RSC Courtyard Theatre we designed, although this was situated in gentle townscape rather than an industrial one, and we could imagine that this was reference point for the organisers.
The master plan for the site envisages housing and small businesses as well as this cultural element placed at the western end of a ‘green’ landscaped pedestrian esplanade.
Our design approach was to separate out the functions within a ‘shed’ whose wall facing the esplanade would invoke theatre through a silver-gold metal fabric curtain suspended in front of a glass wall, while functioning as a solar screen. This would be the main entrance and below the esplanade would be located commercial shops and access to public transport. The spaces to be created included the formal 500 seat theatre and an adaptable space for 250 people, plus the usual front and back-of-house facilities. The links between the objects within the shed would be part of the excitement of being in theatrical production space, and the concept makes evident that significant change over the life of the theatre is inevitable and encouraged.