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DETAIL English 3/2009 - Concept: Music and Theatre

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In contrast to museums, theatres were for a long time designed largely as functional buildings, their appearance determined by the purpose they had to fulfil. Today, they increasingly assume the form of spectacular urban elements.

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A theatre as the emblem of a city, or perhaps of an entire continent: Jørn Utzon succeeded in creating one in his expressive opera house in Sydney in 1972. In doing so, he anticipated by several decades a development that has manifested itself only recently. In contrast to museums, theatres were for a long time designed largely as functional buildings, their appearance determined by the purpose they had to fulfil. Today, they increasingly assume the form of spectacular urban elements, as Roman Hollenstein shows in his article “Space to Play”, and star architects are being commissioned to make a mark with buildings of sculptural character. Some of these schemes exhaust themselves in mere formal gesturing, like Paul Andreu’s monumental concert hall in Beijing, which resembles a gigantic object from outer space. In contrast to this, the new Norwegian State Opera house in Oslo by ­Snøhetta (p.198) seems less the outcome of ­formal considerations than a response to the ­local situation. It is, without doubt, one of the most splendid buildings created for the arts in ­recent years. Set impressively on the Oslo Fjord, its roofs, which are accessible to all citizens, make it an extension of the public realm, a new landscape within the city. It has won the hearts of operagoers and visitors alike.