For a cultural building to become an iconic destination, it needs to be for everyone, not just the ones holding a ticket. In fact, it should never close. Here are two tips for designing a cultural destination for the entire city. If 100 opera performances take place each year in a cultural building, then what happens the remaining 265 days? And if they are performed at night, what happens during the day?
Openness instead of opening hours
If we dare to look past the traditional usage of a cultural house, it can have multiple functions and many more options for usage.
An open building – also in the literary sense – with multiple functions for all ages will ensure life and activity throughout the entire week, both night and day – and not just during show time. If the citizens have a strong incentive to use the performance space and its communal spaces, they will also take greater ownership of it, and it will become a people’s house. This will help make the building a living icon for the whole city and the backbone of a community.
In Reykjavik, all year round, Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center sets the stage for everything from music school concerts and picnic lunches, yoga classes to international gala performances and banquets. Open up your performance space. Give it away. Grant it to the public to use it for weddings and other private events, and it will become a true asset to the city.
Performances should not just be on stage
For the openness to work, make sure to not just deliver the expected, namely a spectacular performance on the main stage. A cultural building should deliver unexpected experiences in every corner of the building. It is our belief that if you allow the focus to shift and dare to move it away from the stage, amazing things can and will happen throughout the entire building. For sure, there is an audience to discover outside of the soft seats. Let kindergarten kids climb the façade, let school kids run in the halls and do their homework in the foyer. Create informal places for people to stay.
The sloped roof of Moesgaard Museum is now one of the most popular toboggans runs in the city of Aarhus. We did not particularly plan for this but tried to instigate a setting where unexpected usage could occur.
A performance space should be an invitation for all, not just the ticket holders. Lure in the outside world with the architecture, and you will find that the people will give back to the building and the building to the people. As it should be.
Written by Louis Becker: Partner, Design Principal
Article originally published by Henning Larsen Architects.