Theatre and Arts Centre De Kunstlinie in Almere

Almere is both a city of the arts and an artificial city. Its roughly 180,000 inhabitants live on built up land – areas that since 1975 have been reclaimed from the Zuider Zee. The proximity of the town to Amsterdam, which lies just 25 km to the west, has resulted in strong growth. Only 20 years after its foundation, Almere is more than just a dormitory town, though, as is indicated by the competition to create a new centre with various cultural facilities. The competition was won in 1994 by Rem Koolhaas (OMA). Since then, numerous internationally renowned architects have realized projects in Almere in addition to OMA: along the embankment promenade, one can admire the works of Mecanoo, Christian de Portzamparc, Claus en Kaan, Alsop + Störmer, and René van Zuuk. Standing amid this display of architectural feats, the new civic theatre and arts centre by SANAA is a comparatively restrained work. Surrounded on three sides by the waters of an artificial lake, many different functions are lined up here: workshops for painters and sculptors, rehearsal spaces, sound studios – used partly by amateurs and partly by professionals – as well as three auditoriums in which stage performances, concerts and congresses take place. One striking feature is the tight layout of the spaces, some of which are directly accessible from the outside, others via patios and very short corridors. The underlying idea of the architects was to create a building with similar spatial qualities throughout and without hierarchies – regardless whether one is concerned with auditoriums or circulation zones. Not surprisingly, therefore, there are corridors that end in a large glazed wall with a magnificent view over the water, just like one of the theatre spaces; and the auditoriums are laid out orthogonally just like the rooms where children can paint and draw. Even the main entrance is unspectacularly integrated in the bold facade grid. Only at night, does the building attract attention to itself, when the large volumes of the theatre and the restaurant are illuminated and pedestrians walking along the embankment promenade have a view of the activities going on inside – wholly in the Dutch manner.
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