The Auditorium in L’Aquila was built as a temporary substitute to replace the Castello Spagnolo concert hall, gravely damaged in the 2009 earthquake. A group of three cubes, it is a simple design that tests the efficiency and expressiveness of spaces that were generated by need and necessity.
Claudio Abbado proclaimed it “a building of great symbolic value”. He was one of the first people to realise that it could be a very long time before the city would be back to normal and that building a place to protect musical traditions would be a positive way to start the healing process.
The 2009 earthquake deprived the city of L’Aquila of its many concert venues, most rendered too dangerous to use. It was yet another painful loss for the cultural vitality of this very musical city. This situation gave rise to the idea of building a temporary hall in an easily accessible area outside of the city’s danger zone.
It was important that it should be sited near the damaged Castello Spagnolo so that people would continue to frequent the area. The Auditorium in L’Aquila is an ensemble of three pure volumes – a trio of cubes set at seemingly random angles, a bit like dice thrown on an uneven surface – housing the 238-seat concert hall, the foyer and dressing rooms.
The separation of the various segments and the flow of movement through simple, adjacent and connected structures was at the root of the design of these square wooden boxes. Wood was chosen for its acoustic properties, but also because it is flexible, more resistant to earthquakes, less invasive and can be easily prefabricated and quickly assembled.
The Auditorium construction site was also turned into an educational opportunity by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Foundation, a chance for graduating engineering students from the universities of L’Aquila and Trento to get some real hands-on experience. Their involvement in the construction was a clause in the job bidding process, a first in Europe.
Precise rules determined the apparently random disposition of the cubes. On concert nights, foot traffic (the audience and the musicians) had to flow smoothly between the equidistant cubes; the angle of the largest cube (its side measures 18.5m), the concert hall, also provides the slope for the two facing tiers of seats inside.
Each of the three lively cubes is clad in a layer of larch slats. The slats are painted different colours that correspond to a very specific system of colour coding: each colour represents a different slat shape and size. This compact architecture designed for music was also intended to bring people together for other events, to be a gathering place of for the city’s citizens.
The spaces outside the auditorium can be set up for open-air performances, with the flat sides of the cubes used as projection screens. The Auditorium was inaugurated in October 2012 with the Orchestra Mozart conducted by maestro Claudio Abbado, one of the men who first inspired its construction.