With an abundance of entertainment offers, including an ever-expanding and always accessible digital realm, one might ask: what is the raison d’être of the 21st
Providing spaces for a wide range of cultural activities reaching beyond its immediate use as a stage for the performing arts, the 21st century theatre manifests itself as public property.
Located in the heart of Hjørring, Denmark, Vendsyssel Theatre was the first theatre built outside the capital in 100 years. Since its completion in 2014, it has become a nerve centre for cultural activities. The theatre not only honours the region’s pre-existing rich artistic heritage, but also serves as a prominent cultural hub for Northern Jutland, dedicated to providing spaces for new experiences while also preserving existing cultural traditions.
The modern theatre’s continued importance lies in its ability to connect people in a physical space via shared experiences that are difficult to replicate through digital media – a powerful tool in a world where an increasing number of people feel isolated and disconnected from each other.
The design of Vendsyssel Theatre is based on the idea of connection. The main stage area is a flexible space that can be configured in a variety of ways, allowing for intimate performances or large-scale productions. The open plan layout secures both physical and visual connections across the different functions. Blurring the boundaries between the public areas and the theatre’s traditional spaces encourages interaction and community-building. In addition to the stages, the theatre offers a café and a spacious atrium which can be used for gatherings, events, and temporary exhibitions by local artists.
The approach to the design of the building has been a pragmatic view of culture as an opportunity and experience for all. Sunlit public spaces with entrances to the theatre activate the city life all around.
Visual connections and access points extend the city life inside the theatre where visitors can choose to be spectators or even participate in the activities.
The theatre includes four venues: Music hall (190 seats), Black Box (150), rehearsal hall and a large flexible hall with up to 430 seats that can be set to "in-the-round" theatre.
Whereas a classical theatre stage is based on a fixed configuration, the main stage inside Vendsyssel Theatre embodies great flexibility and the desire to accommodate varied stage and audience setups without compromising the quality of the experience. The layout supports both the traditional stage setup and the "in the round" theatre's arena, but it can also be used in completely different ways.
The stage can open up to the foyer towards the south, providing a glimpse into the workings of the theatre and allowing natural light to enter. Thus, the working environment during setup and rehearsal situations can benefit from this quality, and the stage can "reveal" its interior to passersby on Parallelvej.
Gade & Mortensen Akustik A/S, AIX Arkitekter AB, Filippa Berglund, Scenographer & Architect MAA
2017, City of Hjørring Architecture Prize, 2017, Winner Archilovers Best Projects
In every city, regardless of its size, the theatre holds a unique possibility of becoming a gathering point forging identity.
The Vendsyssel Theatre is a cultural beacon for the entire region of Northern Jutland. It is a visionary proposal for a modern theatre which respects the pre-existing strong cultural life of Vendsyssel, while also reinterpreting the role of the contemporary cultural institution as a social meeting point. It is a place that belongs to the people of the region, and in addition, attracts a larger national and international audience because of its ambitious and experimental approach to theatre.
Having a cultural institution like Vendsyssel Theatre contributes to the municipality’s mission to become an attractive destination for tourists and permanent settlers alike and support ongoing growth and development.
Outside, the building body appears as four interlocking volumes, each with a unique function. The architectural and functional concept has five main themes: integration in the city, openness, functionality, flexibility, and materiality. The complex has drawn elements and materials from the surrounding city into the theatre square to create a smooth transition between the theatre and the city.
LED backed frosted glass facades illuminate in various colours during the evening, thus, creating an aesthetic link between the town, the front plaza, and the theatre building.
To further root the design in the local context, the building draws inspiration from the regions characteristic landscape and cultural heritage – the sand dunes and the fishing villages. The urban environment is both complemented and challenged by the building as a composition of boxes and the characteristic red corten steel and frosted glass facades.
Inside, daylight plays a significant role in the experience of the bright Scandinavian atmosphere, carried by a simple choice of materials.
The approach to the
building's design has been a pragmatic view of culture as an opportunity and
experience for all. Therefore, space has been created for both scheduled and ad
hoc events outside at the plaza, inside the foyer and on the grand staircase
where visitors can choose to be spectators or
even participants in the activities.
The open plan
solution ensures visual and physical connections across the building. The
boundaries between publicly accessible areas and the more traditional theatre
functions are blurred.
The halls are equipped with technology and structures that allow for a variety of layouts and different scenographies, ranging from minimalist experimental setups to large productions. With the exception of the Black box, all the halls can be darkened or filled with natural light depending on the desired effect and atmosphere.
The four halls each have their own function and are specifically designed with this in mind, but they also have inherent interdependence and the ability to complement each other and function as part of a larger event. The halls are different but also interconnected. They are all designed flexibly for various theatre and audience setups, with the possibility of attaching technology and scenery flexibly to the ceiling and walls, allowing the space to be occupied and staged according to the desired performance and scenography. It is possible to utilise the spaces' simple geometry as a backdrop for the play or build an entirely different world.
The acoustic treatment is crucial for the theatre halls because it affects the overall sound quality of performances. The language of the acoustic panels has the same origins, but treated differently to absorb or reflect sound, to provide a proper acoustic treatment that fits the specific hall, all to optimise the audience's ability to enjoy the performance.
The appearance and materiality of Vendyssel Theatre are a modern interpretation of the classical theatre building, whose striking presence in the cityscape and pronounced use of quality materials and refined details make the building truly special. The building interprets the theatre experience in a more modern way and presents itself as simpler, yet still intimate and inviting.
The main stage is the centrepiece of the Vendsyssel Theatre equipped with a mobile stage floor, grid deck, technical balcony, fly loft, and mixing and sound studio. It is here that the theatre ensemble's qualities and creativity truly come to life in both classical and experimental performances.
Whereas a classical theatre stage is based on a fixed configuration, this space embodies great flexibility and the desire to accommodate varied stage and audience setups without compromising the quality of the experience. The layout supports both the traditional stage setup and the "in the round" theatre's arena, but it can also be used in completely different ways.
The non-traditionally open floor plan is maintained as a welcoming gesture towards both the audience and the artists, locals and visitors alike. The boundary between the public space and the theater's traditional space is visually fluid, and the visitor will be able to witness all the activities of the halls just by passing through the public interior.