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The Show Goes On: Cave Theatre in Hungary
Die Deutsche Bank Hochhäuser, Foto: Andreas Gabriel (München)
The Hungarian town of Fertörákos is just a few kilometres from Sopron and the Austrian border. In fact, it forms part of the Austrian-Hungarian UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fertö-Lake Neusiedl, where white, easily workable Leitha limestone was quarried in Roman times. Consequently, huge spaces appeared inside the mountainside; these caves have unique acoustic characteristics. Since the 1970s, they have been home to a well-known theatre. At that time, the disorderly and poorly planned area left an unfinished impression with both locals and tourists. However, the October 2011 closing of the cave theatre for safety reasons led to renovation work intended to modernize the bizarre theatre rooms, install state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment, create new exhibition spaces showing the region’s geological significance and develop a contemporary infrastructure.
The city of Sopron received financial support from the EU for a new design of the cave theatre. The Hungarian architecture studio archi.doc was commissioned to carry out the work. The architects divided the grounds into three areas: theatre, exhibition space and annexe. An integrated tunnel, ramps and walls preserve the craggy, natural appearance of the old quarry. Furthermore, a special level was created under the stage expressly to accommodate all the stage equipment and other infrastructure. The space thus freed up is now home to the revitalized Miocene Park, which shows the ancient history of the region.
As the theatre grounds are protected under Natura 2000 regulations, three small structures had to be erected for administration, toilets and the box office and souvenir shop instead of one large associated building. These structures, whose roofs have been planted with rare grasses, meld into the surrounding landscape. The limestone removed during building work in the caves has been used for carved blocks, wall cladding or filler.