Remodelling by Flores & Prats Architects for a multi-facetted theatre experience
Client: Institut de Cultura de Barcelona + Fundació Sala Beckett
Architects: Flores & Prats Architects
Location: Calle Pere IV 228, Barcelona (ES)
The two-storey building with the blood-red window and door frames at the intersection of Carrer de Pere IV and Carrer de Batista in Barcelona may show signs of its age, yet nevertheless makes a downright assured impression. The plaster may be doing its best not to fall off the façade, but the building with Sala Beckett emblazoned in large letters above the frieze radiates lively colours from the inside. Sala Beckett, which has survived a wide variety of occupants, is demonstrating a new presence in Poblenou, a formerly industrial district that underwent significant changes for the 1992 Olympics and which is now characterised by the presence of artists and creative talents.
Following a period under the Pau i Justicia cooperative, the building is now the home of a drama centre but only after undergoing thorough restoration. Flores & Prat Architects were engaged for their design work. In conducting the research for their work, they visited the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, an institution that can boast a similarly eventful history, one in which artistic director Peter Brooks returned the theatre to the splendour of its past. In reviving Sala Beckett, Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats worked together closely with the Barcelona theatre's new director, Toni Casares.
They decided to transport the ruin with its multi-facetted interior components into a new reality. All the detailed ornamentation – colourful mosaic work, stucco, rosette windows and decorative wooden frames from a time when the workers' movement in Barcelona began giving recreational buildings a more elaborate flair – was precisely documented and gathered into a collection and it is this that is to lend meaning to future theatre work.
Public rooms are mainly located on the ground floor. The café in the corner can be seen into from the street and along with the entrance area forms a place for encounter and interaction, a space complete with benches and counter that provides a temporary home to visitors waiting for performances. Offices and dressing rooms from where the various stages can be reached are located behind this part of the ground floor, where a central corridor and a staircase provide access to all areas. A second performance space and a rehearsal room are situated on the first storey, and again are accessed from a central passage. A further rehearsal room has been placed on the second storey, where technical equipment fills the space of the passage area.
Natural light entering through a skylight is the one thing the various floors and differing areas have in common. Not only does it lend the complex structures of the building a sense of unity, it also indicates to visitors the way from the entrance area to the performance spaces.
"The new Sala Beckett is a space where the audience member enters and breathes, understands, feels that they are not customers for an industrial product, but part of a dialogue, a person who makes sense of what is presented on stage", states Toni Casares, director of Sala Beckett.
The short film "Taking Care of the Ghosts" by Albert Badia provides insights into the idea behind Sala Beckett and the remodelling approach.