The collaborative proposal of Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects with Dutch architects Van den Berg Groep has won first prize in an international competition for a 16,000 m2 theater building that will also comprise the entrance to the zoological park in Emmen, the Netherlands.
Project Description from the Architects:
Emmen Theatre and Zoo is an unusual cultural building that brings together culture and nature. The building will constitute the entrance to a large zoological park of 10 hectares and comprises two main stages with a capacity of 1,150 people in total, an additional stage, exhibition and conference facilities. The building in itself covers 16,000 m2.
The contrast between city and nature are united in the building design where the rectangular frame structure and the organic, curved roof merge into each other. The roof arouses associations of an animal’s back. It creates a distinctive entrance to the zoo and stands out as part of the city skyline.
The building will be a large theatre in itself. Viewed from the city, it opens up as a magic window towards the natural wildlife in the zoo – while the city is staged as a large urban universe viewed from the zoo.
Emmen Theatre and Zoo incorporates the surrounding outdoor spaces in a unifying scenography: The large new urban square; the landscape element, introducing the zoological park; the roof landscape, providing visitors with the opportunity to take a break from the noise and activity of the city.
The building design as a large stage structure allows the theatre to stage many different activities. The walls can be moved, and it is possible to open up the small stages and thus create new outdoor stages. In addition, the main passage area of the building situated in connection with the foyer balconies constitutes a magnificent stage opening up to city life.
Sustainability has been an important design parameter in the development of the new theatre in Emmen.
The integration of daylight, geometry and flexibility in the building reduces the energy consumption without use of technology. The design is energy-efficient in itself and forms an important part of the sustainability concept of the building.
The design ensures a good indoor climate and a comfortable outdoor climate on the urban square under the roof. The large overhangs of the east and west facades protect the square from the sun and rain. Forming part of the frame structure, the remaining facades are solid and feature large windows to the north and small openings to the south. Plenty of overhead lights in the roof provide the various foyers and halls with ample daylight.
Emmen Theatre is a compact volume. The flexible design allows for the sizes of the various rooms to be adjusted as needed and reduces the energy consumption for heating or cooling. The large foyer and meeting space serves as a buffer for natural ventilation.
The roof landscape of the theatre plays an important role in terms of reducing energy costs. The collection of rainwater cools down the entire structure through the concrete. At the same time, the roof collects water for watering the roof garden and for filling up the small canals and lakes, which – as small water falls – fall from the roof into the fountain in front of the building.
About the competition
A total of five teams participated in the competition. Among these were the well-known Dutch architecture studios MVRDV and Mecanoo.
All teams were assessed on the basis of aesthetics, functionality, sustainability, cost-efficiency and collaboration strategy. The team of Henning Larsen Architects and Van den Berg Groep achieved maximum points in all five categories.
Extracts from the jury citation:
”The project proposal has an intelligent design. The straight lines in combination with the organic shape make a strong architectural statement.”
“The proposal demonstrates a good appreciation of the wished balance between culture and nature, shopping and theatre and offers innovative visions for different aspects of the project.”
”The sustainable visions of the proposal are more than satisfactory and well meet the client’s ambitions.”
With its approx. 60,000 inhabitants, Emmen is a mid-size province in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. The city is well-known for its zoo, Dierenpark Emmen, which opened in 1935. Each year, the zoo attracts around 1.5 million visitors.
A new zoo of 10 hectares will be built as part of an urban development plan for Emmen city centre. The zoo is expected to open in 2015 just as the theatre, which will constitute the entrance to the zoo.
Project: Emmen, the Netherlands
Client: City of Emmen
Architects: Henning Larsen Architects and Van den Berg Groep
Gross floor area: 16,000 m2
Construction period: 2012-2015
Type of assignment: 1st prize in international competition
Team from Henning Larsen Architects: Troels Troelsen (creative manager), Martin Stenberg, Thomas Ponds, Mohammad Wesam Al Asali, Adam Ciuk and Joakim Allerth
Team from Van den Berg Groep: Dick van de Merwe and André Lageweg
Check the image gallery below for concept sketches of the project.