The Strasbourg based architectural firm, Dominique Coulon & Associés has recently completed the Théodore Gouvy Theatre in the historic town of Freyming-Merlebach, in the Lorraine region of France.
The quaint town of Freyming-Merlebach has a noteworthy industrial past, that saw major developments during the 19th century, thanks to the booming coalmining industry in the region. Since the closure of numerous mines in the 1990s, north-eastern France has witnessed a very dramatic increase in the rate of unemployment. As an attempt to overcome the social and economic difficulties witnessed in the town, culture was seen as the one of the possibilities to alleviate the situation.
The former historic theatre in Freyming-Merlebach deteriorated, as a result of the many disused underground tunnels under its foundations. The old, 500-seat auditorium needed to be replaced due to its very small size. With the new Théodore Gouvy Theatre, which is located near the town centre and next to the town hall and shopping centre, the municipal authorities were keen to boost this evolving sector. With its prominent location, the Théodore Gouvy Theatre now allows a much larger parking capacity for its audiences. This new theatre has become a symbol of the town’s renewal, and production of new public spaces in the town centre. Furthermore, the theatre’s new programming is pluri-disciplinary which allows it to cover all areas of live performance including classical theatre, musical theatre, opera and dance.
The Théodore Gouvy Theatre is a unique design that reinvigorates its surroundings and sets up an energetic dialogue with its landscape
The Théodore Gouvy Theatre generates a energetic dialogue within its context and urban landscape, adapting to its logic of existing flows. It sits on a base, alongside the new municipal offices; its highly unusual shape and dimensions give it a streamlined silhouette, with lines that ensure a seamless visual transition between its various counter parts of the programme and their scale. A striking characteristic of the Théodore Gouvy Theatre is the animation of volumes that is created: the upper part, which houses the foyer, is slightly offset to indicate the entrance of the building, while the lower part, features transparent elements that give a glimpse of the interior routes, inviting the visitor into the building. The foyer space of the Théodore Gouvy Theatre occupies a large vertical space that features a route with an intertwining set of staircases, that lead to the auditorium. The oblique lines of the building reiterate the highly complex geometry of the site, and create a sense of space. This is further iterated through the entry of natural lighting that further reveals the building’s shape and dimensions.
The auditorium of the Théodore Gouvy Theatre creates a strong contrast against the nuanced surfaces of the outer envelope. While the building presents itself in a immaculate white façade, the foyer space is coloured in shades of beige. Furthermore, shades of red, pink and orange give density to the space, affirming itself as the main feature of the theatre and emphasises the idea of performance.
The Théodore Gouvy Theatre offers exceptional acoustic and stagecraft properties; the stage house is 24 metres high, and has a grid with a height of 17 metres and an upper grid at a height of 19.50 metres, a catwalk and two brides. These technical fittings are arranged around central stage that measures at 22 x 14 metres with a proscenium that measures at 14 x 9 metres.