The design of a new Theater aan de Parade, on the main square of Den Bosch, provides an opportunity to breathe more life into the city’s historic center while replacing the existing 1976 building. An opportunity to once again take up the classic role of the city’s main theatre. MVRDV’s design creates a unique sibling to the nearby gothic Cathedral of St. John, an intricate latticework of glazing veiling a performance machine clothed in the city’s most famous painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The design of a new Theater aan de Parade, on the main square of Den Bosch, provides an opportunity to breath more life into the city’s historic centre while replacing the existing 1976 building. An opportunity to again take up the classic role of the city’s main theatre in its most prime location. The project is a courageous one for the city, not least because the new building, and the necessary parking lot underneath, will be built in such a historically sensitive location directly adjacent to the high gothic era St. John’s Cathedral. What kind of building should be built here, particularly given that the volume specified by the municipality will be far too large in the eyes of many observers, despite being relatively small for a major theatre venue? How to realize a successful theatre given the tight space restrictions? How to design a theatre for the future, which can adapt to changes in the performing arts and innovations in staging?
The concept for the new theatre is based on a back-to-back layout of two separate auditoriums which can be connected by opening up the backstage areas to become a single large space. By retracting seating and balcony elements, unprecedented opportunities in layout and format present themselves.
Additionally, the side walls of both theatres can be opened up, so that both spaces can open directly onto the Parade square, providing new venues for the city’s infamous annual carnival and other special events.
This ‘theatre-machine’ will provoke new forms of performance; it will challenge companies to find new uses for the space, drawing international interest. To accommodate the necessary fly towers, while keeping the height of the building appropriate to its historic context, a double basement is created which provides delivery access for sets and scenery directly under the building. As both fly towers are located back to back, at the center of the building, the building’s roof lowers as it reaches the facades, to match the heights of surrounding buildings. Indeed, the new building is designed so that it is no bigger than the existing theatre.
Around its chamfered form, a gridded façade in anthracite grey is ‘draped’ that reflects the colour of the nearby cathedral’s stone and the town’s slate roofs. The façade becomes more transparent, with more glazing, where necessary, to create a connection to the public square beyond; while solid panels are used where more intimacy and insulation is needed
The different functions and venues in the theatre are articulated on this façade and in the building’s roofline, giving each area a distinct address, while emphasizing the continuity of the square so as not to detract from the cathedral. The glazed façade creates a grand atrium alongside the square, filled with light and with indoor and outdoor terraces for cafes and other programs.
Behind the screened façade, the lobbies and public areas of the building are wrapped in a three dimensional interpretation of the city’s most famous piece of art, The Garden of Earthly Delights, painted at the turn of the 16th century by Hieronymus Bosch. In this way, the building mirrors the intricate lattice and colourful stained glass of the nearby cathedral, with the artwork appearing from the square as through a lace veil. An almost classical relationship emerges between the two buildings, with the new theatre resisting any direct competition with its older sibling. At night, the theater lights up; a subtle and romantic lantern. Through the building’s veil, one can discern the glowing form of the Theater-Machine.
- Design team