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British note: music theater in Linz

In the spring of 2013, the city of Linz opened a newly built music theater, which is not only important as a venue for cultural life in Upper Austria, but will also create a new urban quality for Linz through its architecture and placement.

Draft and submission: TPA - Terry Pawson Architects
Execution and interior planning:
Architektur Consult and Archinauten-Dworschak & Mühlbachler Architects
Location: Am Volksgarten 1, A-4020 Linz

The building is based on the design by British architect Terry Pawson, who won the competition in 2006. The architectural planning services were entrusted to the architectural consortium Architektur Consult and their Linz partner Archinauten-Dworschak & Mühlbachler Architekten following a further public tender.

Location of the building
The integration of the building into what is happening in Linz as part of Pawson's concept is achieved by relocating the former Blumauerstrasse. Coming from the park there is a wide, elevated platform accessible via a flight of stairs to the main entrance on the west side. This terrace structurally bridges the tram route below and ideally the barrier between the Volksgarten and high culture and forms a public area with a coffee house garden, which is also to be available to park visitors. The entrance front is the show side of the music theater and, if you come from the city center of Linz, it is visible from Landstrasse. It is - framed by a loggia and glazed over three floors - of manageable dimensions. The enormous length of the building complex, which extends over two blocks, is imperceptible from this point of view.

The south and east facades merge in a curve and have a total length of 200 meters. In order to implement the design idea of ​​a "circumferential curtain" on the facade, a reinforced concrete framework is placed in front of the actual building walls. Its vertical grid and the irregular interplay between open and stone-clad fields create tension on the facade and at the same time reduce its length. Window openings could be made as required without affecting the style of the facade. The view from the passing train, whose route runs on the east side, is particularly attractive, as the grid on the facade creates a dynamic sequence of images.

Spatial structure, the spatial sequence
The size of the new Linz opera house is also its efficiency, since in addition to the stage and auditorium, all production workshops, depots, rehearsal rooms and side stages are combined under one roof or behind the curtain facade. The different components are completely acoustically separated from one another in order to ensure that their respective functions can be used in parallel. A stage design can be set up in the assembly hall, which is connected to the back stage, while a performance is given on the main stage itself. Since the program will not only include classical opera and ballet, but also operettas, musicals and orchestral performances, the simultaneity of production and performance must be given.

The core of the building is the 32 meter diameter transport turntable with the annex rooms and the auditorium. On the southeast side there are workshops and offices, on the north side the artists' dressing rooms and rehearsal rooms as well as incised atria with a glass roof, which guarantee natural lighting into the interior of the building. The delivery takes place on the northeast side.

Floor plans, sections and details in the gallery

The administrative offices, the canteen and the public restaurant are located on the top floor of the terrace and can be accessed via its own staircase, independent of the opera, and also facing the park via the loggia at the main entrance.

There are parking spaces available for theater-goers on the second and part of the first basement floor. In the first basement there are also, among other things, the lower stage, orchestra pit, instrument depot and room for tuning the instruments. There are also two additional performance halls, which are separately accessible via an underground foyer.

The visitor enters the opera house via this low entrance hall, which houses the box office, the café and a shop. A wide staircase leads up a mezzanine floor, where the room expands far up to a skylight glazing and is thus illuminated with daylight. The staircase continues to the left and right of the podium and finally leads into the main foyer on the first floor, which is generously dimensioned and visually extended into the green space of the park by the floor-to-ceiling glass facade. The auditorium is accessed from here.

The auditorium itself is designed as a rank theater in order to ensure an optimal view of the stage from all 970 (up to a maximum of 1180) seats. Even the “ground floor” level is rising slightly. For the first time in an opera house, connecting stairs were built between the individual tiers within the hall, which not only creates spatial permeability, but also has a positive effect on the acoustics. Special attention was paid to the comfort of the visitors as the distance between the rows of seats is wider than in any other opera house in Europe.

Design elements
The Musiktheater Linz is designed as a self-contained building, clearly structured and manageable despite its enormous size. Formally, it captivates with a timeless modernity with a classicist character. Like a double colonnade, the orthogonal structure of white precast concrete elements extends around the house as a metaphorical curtain. With this architectural trick of an outer layer that is both limiting and permeable at the same time, the building lives up to its claim to be networked as a cultural institution with what is happening in the city. Slabs made of split Roman travertine are inserted where the facade fields should be closed.

The rough, beige surface creates a soft texture compared to the smooth, white framework made of reinforced concrete. All parts behind the “stone curtain” that refer to the interior of the building are covered with a layer of pre-patinated brass and form a formal unit with the dark window frames. The attached top floor is provided with white prefabricated concrete slabs, which are grooved and left rough on the surface. The glass facade of the main foyer is also provided with vertical slats. In addition to the desired design effect on the outside, the elements made of perforated sheet metal, placed like swords in front of the facade, also serve as sun protection when folded out.

The friendly color of the travertine slabs and the dark color of the brass patina are also used as formal elements in the interior of the opera house. The architects chose a polished, light Untersberg marble as the floor covering in the entrance foyer, which also extends over the stairs. The walls are made of wood in a dark, slightly reddish shade: steamed acacia wood is used vertically in lamellar form as a semi-transparent room divider and partially faded in front of the walls and in the main foyer on the upper floor also the ceiling. The floor here is also covered with light oak planks. These materials extend into the auditorium, the shell made of matt wooden surfaces is contrasted there by the balconies, which shimmer golden.

They are provided with a smooth surface made of liquid metal, which, unlike classic gold plating, has a diffuse shimmer and shines deeply through reflection in artificial light. The stairs of the internal access to the tiers in the auditorium are separated by a transparent room divider. Narrowly dimensioned, golden metal rods are stretched vertically from the floor to the ceiling and create the effect of a pearl curtain. Thus there is also a “curtain” here, which extends as a design theme from the facade to the heart of the music theater, the auditorium.

It was a challenge for ArchitekturConsult / Archinauten to take on this complex task in the absence of the designing architect. The basis was the high level of respect for the requirements of TPA. Today, Pawson can identify with the implementation by the execution architects and speaks of a successful implementation.

Project data

GFA: 52,420 m²
overbuilt area: 10,770 m² (including canopies)
Gross volume: 289,860 m³
Building costs: 96 million euros
Total construction costs: 150 million euros
completion: April 2013

Client: Province of Upper Austria, TOG-OÖ Theater- und Orchester GmbH (Supervisory Board), MTG - Musiktheater Linz GmbH (Advisory Board)
Users: TOG, Upper Austrian Theater and Orchestra GmbH
Procedure: EU-wide, multi-level competition
winner: TPA - Terry Pawson Architects, London

Structure: Schimetta Consult ZT GmbH
Landscape planning: Land in sight, Vienna
geology: Oliver Monday, Leonding
Building and room acoustics: Quiring Consultants Aldrans
Sound foyer: Ars Electronica Center, Linz
Lighting design: design Kress & Adams
Light and sound technology stage: GCA Ingenieure AG, Unterhaching
Building technology, building physics, electrical planner: Wagner & Partner ZT GmbH
Stage technology: Theater Projects Consultants / GCA Ingenieure AG
Fire protection: IBS, Linz
Explosion protection: Carpenter, Linz
Workshop and warehouse planning: stagedream, Vienna
Gastro planning: Network group Linz, Wögerer GmbH, Steyr
Construction management, project management: Spirk & Partner ZT GmbH
Construction coordination: Tricon, Linz

TPA - Terry Pawson Architects: www.terrypawson.com
ArchitekturConsult ZT GmbH: www.archconsult.com
Archinauten, Dworschak + Mühlbachler Architects ZT GmbH: www.archinauten.com

Callwey has published a book about the project. Opera House - Musiktheater Linz
Terry Pawson & ArchitectureConsult / archinauten
Text by Judith Eiblmayr
Date of publication May 2013, format 23 x 30 cm, number of pages 96
ISBN 978-3-7667-2050-4
Price: 20.00 euros