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39


BUILDING PROJECTS


THÉODORE GOUVY THEATRE FREYMING-MERLEBACH


Post-industrial evolution


A characterful, white form houses the new theatre in a deprived former mining town on the French-German border, standing as a symbol of the municipality’s renewal plans. James Parker reports


© Eugeni Pons


reyming-Merlebach is a small town located 100 km north-west of Strasbourg on the border between France and Germany. Its industrial past had however left it with a legacy of unemploy- ment since the coal mines shut in the 1990s, a feature of similar towns across this area. Despite, and because of the relative levels of deprivation in the town, the authorities were looking to develop cultural solutions to help alleviate the associated social and economic problems. The architects of a striking new theatre for Freyming- Merlebach – Strasbourg-based Dominique Coulon & Associes note that this approach has been successfully achieved in industrial towns in the Ruhr region of Germany, just over the border. The town’s population was dropping significantly, reduced to 13,000 by the time the architects won the 2011-held competition to design a larger 700-seat theatre to replace the historic but dilapidated venue in the town. A number of cracks had appeared due to the presence of disused mining tunnels, and the old 500-seat auditorium was too small, and inadequate in terms of meeting the needs of 21st century theatre and music performance. According to the architects, the town’s mayor – who staged the competition – is “highly proactive, and had decided not to give up on the town’s cultural scene.”


F As has been the case with other towns in ADF OCTOBER 2018


the region suffering from the after-effects of industrial blight, the public administration has called on architecture to provide a catalyst for improvement and regeneration. There was a precedent in the town in the form of the Maison des Cultures Frontieres, a cultural centre built in 1984, which had been successfully transformed into a new multimedia library.


However in the case of the new theatre, named after 19th century French-German composer Louis Théodore-Gouvy, refurbishment of the existing theatre wasn’t an option due to the site’s instability. As a result, a new site was identified to the east of the town centre, on Place des Alliés. The architects comment: “The authorities were keen to give a new boost to this evolving sector of town” – it is close to the new town hall, and a shopping centre.” Since it opened last year, the theatre’s 700 seat auditorium would be hosting what is described as a “pluri-disciplinary” programme. The theatre covers a wide variety of live performance, ranging from classical theatre including the use of large- scale sets, to contemporary theatre, musical theatre and opera, and dance. The building also houses a programme of events designed for schools and youth participation.


Site


A leading French studio, Dominique Coulon & Associes have an impressive portfolio of projects in the cultural sector,


WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK


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