New Luzerner Theater by Pichler & Traupmann Architects

The building for the Neues Luzerner Theater (New Lucerne Theatre) will reorganise an important urban interface in the heart of Lucerne. Our proposal responds in varied and spatially differentiated ways to the diversity of relationships, directions and intersecting lines in this unusual urban situation. The place produces, as it were, the syntax for the tectonic form of the new theatre building.

The first important decision is to completely redevelop the area covered by the old theatre and historically by the Freienhof. This is necessary not only to meet the new theatre’s schedule of accommodation but also results from the wish to provide a framework for the impressive Baroque facade of the Jesuit Church that can match the cantonal government building on the other side in terms of proportions and materials.

The second decision is the idea to move the Theaterplatz to the quay or indeed to create such a space in the first place. With this goal in mind the facade that replaces what was the northern bay of the old theatre responds by forming a recess precisely here. As a reference to the proportion of the old theatre the entrance is placed here and the historical theatre quay is reactivated, precisely on the axis of the Rathaussteg which here meets the axis of the Kapellsteg.

The third decision is the aim to keep the building height as perceived by a pedestrian from the respective street spaces as low as possible. On this account the taller volumes needed for the theatre are either recessed from the continuous eaves line on three sides or are stepped several times. Hirschgraben in particular is relieved in this way and above all through the distance kept by the stage tower respect is shown to the Jesuit Church, and this of course allows light to enter the nave of the church.

A new urban place for social gatherings is created. The perspective effect of these non-parallel lines and the fifth decision not to make the stage tower as a freestanding element but rather to integrate it by means of a roof that falls continuously to the volume of the studio is most surprising. On the one hand the projecting silhouette of the stage tower which results from the height needed, is further calmed because the outline of the sloping roof appears as just a discrete recessed storey.

On the other hand for the viewers unsuspected dynamics of the place itself are revealed – for instance on the roof terrace when the thee ye follows the eaves line of the building and the continuing lines of the Kapellbrücke.The tectonics of the building are understood as those of a continuous folding of surfaces and the openings are placed there where they develop as a result of the folding process. These openings are generously glazed.

The kind of glazing used reflects the different significances. The ground floor zone has panes of maximum size that are as transparent as possible towards the quay. The „bel etage“ of the three-storey main foyer, in contrast, has wavy glazing that recalls the motif of the theatre curtain but also the River Reuss that flows by here. Towards the Jesuit Church this skin becomes an opaque, hanging but also a wavy panel.

The recessed roof top and the stage tower have glass elements whose frames emphasise the verticality. The materiality of the folding, the band, the topological figure we can imagine clad with white stone or built of exposed concrete made with white cement. In the interior the building is organised in as compact and straight-lined way as possible. It is understood as a theatre machine, in which the most important aspects are properly functioning operation and a condensed experience of theatre.

The performance spaces are essentially connected in two clusters of volumes: the “large cross” in the west consisting of the main stage with the stage tower, the side stages, the backstage, and the large hall, as well as the staggered tower in the west consisting of the Middle Hall and the Studio. In front of these two elements in the direction of the river a slender but three-storey high foyer extends along the entire length of the building which can function as a semi-public action space for the public at the joint between city and theatre.

The „big cross“ and the „stacked tower“ are clad with dark wood and can be seen from a distance shining through the glass facades. The new building is entered from the new Theaterplatz, the Theatre Quai, where one directly encounters the ticket office that relates to the outside and the cloakrooms which have two parallel access areas so that coats can be handed in and collected as quickly as possible. On the right hand side, in the west, the restaurant can be reached directly it uses the entire quay front and can be separately entered from outside.

After handing in your coat you can take one of the two single flight staircases which lead to the large main foyer that offers a view of the water and the opposite side of the city. From here one enters the parquet level of the Grosser Sall and the Black Box of the medium sized hall. For special events the side stages can be opened allowing the the entire theatre space can be surrounded or the entire first floor to be integrated in the proceedings. And finally on the fourth floor there is the studio. Its foyer and the green room beside it for artistes and staff has a magnificent roof terrace at the front.

It has its own lift that allows it to be served directly from the restaurant on the ground floor. Naturally all levels can be reached barrier-free by lift by both the public and the staff. At the back of the building, along Hirschegraben suitably dimensioned corridors allow all functions tob e served from the goods lift. The New Lucerne Theatre – with a syntax of organisation for the harmonious interplay of the different functions and a syntax of geometry generated from the implications of the place. Source by Pichler & Traupmann Architects.