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Münchner Volkstheater, München, LRO

Break a Leg: a New Home for Munich’s Volkstheater

For 38 years, a repurposed gymnasium on Brienner Strasse was home to the Munich Volkstheater. Its workshops were distributed over four different buildings; the stage materials were kept in 27 containers outside the city. Every morning, when the sets for the evening’s performance were delivered on two 40-tonne trucks, one lane of Augustenstrasse had to be closed for two hours. Grave structural defects and a rental agreement that was not extended were further reasons to build the municipal theatre a new home.

After a Europe-wide tendering procedure with an integrated architecture competition, Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei and the Georg Reisch construction firm were commissioned to act as general contractors to create a turnkey building for the theatre. The work took just under three years, and the project was completed according to schedule, in time for the end of theatre season and precisely at its projected budget.

On the grounds of the old stockyard in the abattoir district, the theatre professionals surrounding artistic director Christian Stückl are now moving into their new building. The three venues − main stage, studio stage and rehearsal stage − feature state-of-the-art technology: the seating can be stowed away in a drawer system. A lift conveys sets to subterranean storage. There are mobile lighting bridges, even in the auditorium (where the chandelier usually hangs). Podiums can be lowered as needed and transformed into extra rows of seats, an extension of the stage or an orchestra pit, to name but a few possibilities. A high assembly hall and spacious workshops with daylight are located directly adjacent to the stages.

It is difficult to discern the imposing 160,000 m3 of this structure. Various façade textures in the vertically tiered building serve to break up the mighty cubature. Veiled in a semi-transparent membrane façade, the fly tower rises over the folded grid construction of fine metal rods, behind which the building’s engineering systems are found. The plinth of red facing brick echoes the typical material of the abattoir district.

A broad, striking archway links the historically protected original building with the new structure and opens onto an oblong inner courtyard. The curved wall of the lobby protrudes into the open space and divides the yard into two areas. To the rear, benches and tables invite guests to rest a while. The front area leads into the lobby. When visitors first enter the building, they are surprised by the vivid colours inside: a light azure in the entranceway, sunny yellow and black on the opposite wall by the cloakroom, and antique pink at the eastern and western ends of the lobby. A deep ultramarine covers the ceilings; this shade and the beaming pot lights recall the night sky. The designers have unmistakably taken great joy in creating this building. On 15 October, the doors on Tumblinger Strasse will open to the new performance season in the theatre’s new home. Break a leg!

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