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Hessian State Theatre Darmstadt

The Hessian State Theatre in Darmstadt was built in 1972 from plans by the architect Rudolf Prange. It is one of the largest buildings of its kind in Germany and has a staff of around 500. It boasts a large auditorium with 956 seats and a smaller one for an audience of 482. The building is a model of functionality, as it is possible to transport sets built in its workshops onto the stage without dismantling them. A lack of maintenance, but also more stringent building, energy and fire codes, however, made a general overhaul of the building necessary.

In line with the notions of the post-war era, the theatre was built in a ‘car friendly’ manner. An underpass with several lanes enabling direct access to the foyer from the basement was as self-evident as the directly adjoining underground car park for several hundred vehicles. Integration with the surrounding urban space hence played no role. That is why the institution continued to have no urban connection until recently, and accordingly it has lacked a public ‘face’.

Since the theatre could not be closed during renovations because of the large number of staff, we transformed the greater part of the underpass into a provisional theatre – with space for a stage and the audience – and it went on being used as a ‘studio theatre. To alleviate the lack of disabled access and the uninviting configuration of the stairs, we erected an entrance structure in front of the existing building. In this way, the theatre was given a representative ‘head’ which establishes a connection to the urban surroundings. This structure of cast white concrete opens up on the upper floor with an exterior stage onto the square in front of it, which has a classical cross axis coming into it at right angles from the city centre.

The foyer on the ground floor received a radical reconfiguration: in place of the two entrances, a common access area was created, leading into the small and large auditoria as well as the studio theatre. Cloakroom lockers with free-flowing curves and a central ticket office were installed there. The façades looking onto the square were broken up by generously-proportioned windows.

Great difficulties were encountered in fashioning the ceilings for the upper levels of the foyer, as building and security technology no longer permitted the existing continuous ceiling to remain. That is why we left the technology visible and painted the entire installation black. Sails hung under it from the ceiling, with acoustic functions and as support for the sprinkler system and the illumination, now characterise the upper spatial enclosure.
To ensure smoke extraction from the lower foyer, we set up a row of individual chimneys clad in white metal on the projecting terrace, which flank the entrance structure like a line of pillars. They are illuminated in the evenings and, together with the exterior stage which stretches right across the entire width of the building, they form a setting which does indeed connect it to the city.

Client:
Hessisches Baumanagement
Regionalniederlassung Süd, Darmstadt

Architects:
Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei, Stuttgart

Team:
Thilo Holzer, Björn Barkemeyer, Ulrike Hautau, Tania Ost, Matthias Schneider, Markus Schwarzbach, Andrea Stahl, Michael Müller, Katrin Merk, Wolfram Sponer

Project Management:
DU-Diederichs, Wuppertal

Competition:
2001

Construction period:
2003 – 2006

Location:
Georg-Büchner-Platz 1, 64283 Darmstadt, Germany

Awards

Auszeichnung Vorbildliche Bauten in Hessen
Architekten- und Stadtplanerkammer Hessen

Nominierung zur Teilnahme am Contemporary Architecture –
Mies van der Rohe Award, Fundació Mies van der Rohe Barcelona 2006

Made in Germany – Best of Contemporary Architecture 2007
Architect of the Year (1. Preis), Building of the Year (2. Preis)

Architekturpreis Farbe–Struktur-Oberfläche, Caparol GmbH 2007

best architects 09 Award, Zinnobergruen GmbH

Joseph-Maria-Olbrich-Plakette
Ausgezeichnete Architektur in Hessen, BDA

Nominierung zum Architekturpreis Große Nike 2010 (Bundespreis des BDA)

Belobigung, Deutsche Akademie für Städtebau und Landesplanung 2012

Publications

Günter Baumann (Hg.):
Meisterwerke der Architektur
Philipp Reclam jun. GmbH & Co. KG, Neuauflage 2017

Detail
6 | 2016

a+u
1 | 2013

Lederer, Arno / Ragnarsdóttir, Jórunn / Oei, Marc (Hg.):
Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei 1
Jovis Verlag Berlin 2012

Birgit Schmolke (Hg.):
Bühnenbauten – Handbuch und Planungshilfe
DOM publishers, 2011

Ausbau + Fassade
9 | 2010

Chris van Uffelen (Hg.):
Performance. Architecture + Design
Berlin 2010

Häuser
6 | 2009

Falk Jaeger (Hg.):
Lederer+Ragnarsdóttir+Oei
Berlin 2008

Build – Das Architekten-Magazin
1 | 2008

Best Architects Documentation.
Düsseldorf 2008

Architekturpreis Farbe Struktur Oberfläche
Leinfelden-Echterdingen 2008

Bauwelt
23 | 2007

Werk, Bauen + Wohnen
4 | 2007

Malerblatt
2 | 2007

Forum AID
1 | 2007

Dirk Meyhöfer (Hg.):
Made in Germany. Best of Contemporary Architecture
Berlin 2007

Rüdiger Kramm, Tilman Schalk (Hg.):
Sichtbeton – Betrachtungen. Ausgewählte Architektur in Deutschland
Düsseldorf 2007

Peter Cachola Schmal (Hg.):
Architektur Jahrbuch 2007 | 8
München 2007

1000 X European Architecture
Berlin 2007

Stuttgarter Nachrichten
25.09.2006

Stuttgarter Zeitung
23.09.2006

Frankfurter Rundschau
11.08.2006

Deutsche Bauzeitung
8 | 2006

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
13.07.2006

Bühnentechnische Rundschau
5 | 2006

opus C.
Planen & Gestalten mit Beton
3 | 2006

Baumeister
3 | 2006

Hessisches Baumanagement (Hg.):
Staatstheater Darmstadt in neuem Gewand
Freiburg 2006

Convertible City.
Sonderpublikation zum Deutschen Pavillon, Bienale Venedig
Gütersloh 2006

Darmstädter Echo
26.10.2005

Deutsche Bauzeitung
10 | 2005

Frankfurter Rundschau
29.01.2005

Ingeborg Flagge (Hg.):
FSB Architekturführer Darmstadt
Darmstadt 2004

Photos

Roland Halbe, Stuttgart