The Albi Grand Theatre is going to transform the texture of the city aswell as its cultural influence.This building appears as an outstanding architectural symbol, on theoutskirts of the historic centre.We have given priority to the presence of the Grand Theatre instead ofthe cinemas, in order to organize around it a network of public spacesand of cultural facilities. The Grand Theatre will be its centre.
Along the Alley of Culture, different public spaces will follow one another,punctuating a walkway going from the cathedral to the Rochegudebig public park. This path begins with the creation of a square atthe level of the Sibille Boulevard, then arrives on the theatre place,and continues on the cinemas place in front of the Athanor, to finallyopen onto the public garden. That’s the idea of an « urban walkway »animated by the succession, the juxtaposition and the interaction ofseveral cultural buildings.
We chose to clearly identify those different buildings with places whichgive them an address in the city. Therefore, the preserved Athanorbuilding is modified to create the entrance of the cinemas. It becomesthe visible part of this « iceberg », offering a big lobby, with maybesome shops and a café at the square level. In the basements, we findall the screening rooms. So the base of the theatre place is totallyoccupied by the cinematographic complex. This layout allows us toliberate all the public space and to open it generously to the urbanactivity and the population.
The very simple geometry of the theatre allows a setting up alongthe Général de Gaulle Avenue, in an attempt of urban continuity andproximity with the multimedia library, generating two more or lesstriangular places on the side of the “cultural alley”. Those two publicspaces, new in this urban infrastructure, are laid around the theatre:one is opened towards the historic centre and the other towards theneighbourhood.We searched a compact volume which allows the theatre‘s dimensionto fit for the best into its urban surrounding. We also searched somefunctional, simple, direct and immediate principles, especially for theaccess, by the public space, of the trucks, on the same level than thestage and the backstage.
It doesn’t necessarily means that this back side of the theatre is « dead», because upstairs we can find the boxes and the administration,and above the experimental room. So, the four sides of the prism areopened and inhabited.Of course, the only opening on the theatre place is fully glazed like abig window towards the city, welcoming all the lobbies, the galleries,the balconies and the big auditorium.
From this transparent volume, we’ll reach the experimental room onone hand and on the other hand the roof-terrace, where will be setup the hanging garden and its restaurant. From this height, we’ll havean open view on the outline of the city of Albi and on the surroundinglandscape.The building is made of concrete, covered with bricks. We will use thismaterial for the outside as much as the inside, for the floors as muchas the walls and the ceilings, to create a mono material architecture.
To the solidity of the brick, we oppose a smooth and lightweight cover,which will dress up the prism of the theatre. This cover of metal mesh,red copper coloured, which doesn’t rust, like clothing, will take on theverticality of the building on two sides, and will take away from it onthe other sides, to open like a big drop cloth on the theatre place andthe cinemas one.The curves and counter curves required for this static mesh create afree, happy and lyric architecture. We’ll also see there the metaphorof the drop cloth or the evocation of an opera stage design.
But most of all we’ll find there some brilliance, reflection, colour, whichreminds an architecture « dressed in a bright light ».This metallic woven skin, as a lace, is going to protect the functions ofthe theatre without separating them from the functions of the city. It’sgoing to filter the light and to break the wind and the rain.This big ornament has some sustainable qualities.
The mesh will adjust to the spaces and the uses that it covers. It will bepossible to weave it larger to offer some views from inside to outsideor tighter on other parts, to hide some structural walls, or to filter, likea sun break, the light in the big foyers.This tight veil will clear up some big arks at the public spaces level,to let the visitors and spectators come in, and then will rise up in thesky over the built volume to create an immaterial figure coming up inthe landscape from the roofs of the city of Albi.
As a conclusion, the measures that will be taken are:
- The use of the basement to inset there some car parks andmovie theatre,
- The qualification at the ground level of public spaces dedicatedto each cultural building,
- The search of simplicity and compactness, offering anefficient, flexible and economic theatrical instrument.
Grand Théâtre des Cordeliers: shimmering façade with I-SYS
The golden curtain of the Grand Théâtre des Cordeliers, adding a dazzling shine to Albi
With its undulating shimmering gold screen, the Grand Théâtre des Cordeliers shines over the historic old town of Albi in the south west of France. The modern building fits in surprisingly harmoniously with the surrounding architecture so typical of the region. And this is all made possible by a gold-colored anodized aluminum mesh which architect Dominique Perrault draped over the building like a veil: It reflects the sunlight and shines in the varying play of colors of the surrounding brick buildings. The special spiral mesh is kept taut with a customized stainless steel construction from the I-SYS product range by Carl Stahl Architecture.
Paris-based star architect Dominique Perrault has given the small French town of Albi, in the Midi-Pyrénées region, a shining landmark. Picturesque brick buildings and the imposing Sainte Cécile cathedral, built in the 13th century and part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, dominate the medieval flair of this small town to the north east of Toulouse. It is the home of the famous painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and is proud of its rich historical and cultural heritage.
A modern building rises up majestically on the edge of the historic old town, its semi-transparent, dramatically draped screen seemingly floating above the ground: The Grand Théâtre des Cordeliers is the new home for the city's artistes. On around 30,000 square meters of usable space, it is home to an auditorium that can seat 900, an experimental hall with a further 250 seats, eight movie theatres as well as offices and logistics areas, foyers and a rooftop restaurant overlooking the town.
The woven screen represents metaphorically the theatre curtain. During the day, the reflection of light makes it look closed; only when it is illuminated from within does it reveal a buzz of activity. The curtain rises on the theatre square side to let visitors in. The building-encompassing façade cladding is both a design and functional element. It filters the sun's rays, keeps wind and rain off the building, and thus has a protective and climate-regulating function.
A special spiral mesh was developed to implement the work of art on the façade with its undulating curves and varying heights. In total, the woven screen consists of nearly 5000 spirals of individual lengths, anodized in a special shade of gold specified by the architect. Thirty-six panels, none of which are perpendicular, make up the 4800 square-meter screen. To realize the convex and concave edge design, the beveled long sides and bottom edges were attached to the construction below. This special form of attachment was made possible by stainless steel cables threaded into the mesh from the I-SYS range from Carl Stahl Architecture. Six hundred individual cables, ranging in length from 3 to 15 meters and with a diameter of 10 millimeters, carry the aluminum mesh. As almost every cable has its own length, the experts from Süßen in southern Germany had to label each one with details of its exact installation point. Carl Stahl Architecture developed the rolled-on thread ends especially for this project as the required thread lengths exceeded the standard. Consisting of 1 x 19 individual wires, the I-SYS spiral cables provide high stability and can withstand even great loads as experienced, for example, with the wind in the often harsh climate of the region.
With I-SYS, Carl Stahl Architecture turns ideas into reality. The stainless steel architecture program, with its convincing range of thousands of individual parts, combinations and uses, realizes all kinds of shape and function for construction – from delicate railing infill to heavy-duty supporting structures. I-SYS is a standard in contemporary building for architects, engineers and metalworkers all over the world.
Haute couture made from metallic mesh, the Albi Grand Theatre’s three-dimensional facade of gold-coloured anodised aluminium mesh is a landmark within the picturesque French town of Albi. During the day, the semi-transparent skin encloses the building. At night, when lit from inside, the theatre takes on a mystical appearance.
The construction of the membrane was made possible by specially developed Escale spiral mesh manufactured by the GKD (Gebr. Kufferath AG). Made with customised Escale type spiral mesh with a spacing of 150 x 20 millimeters, each customised length of spiral - of which there were 4835 in total - was a feat of production.
This metallic woven skin protects the functions of the theatre without separating it from the functions of the city. The semi-transparent, all-encompassing skin efficiently filters the sunlight entering the building and plays a temperature-regulating function. Thanks to an open area of 37 percent, the mesh allows maximum possible use to be made of daylight.
This is not the first time Perrault has worked with GKD metal mesh. The material also, for example, features in the architect’s famed Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris in the early 1990s.
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In the south-west of France, 80 kilometres north-east of Toulouse, lies Albi, also known as la ville rouge derived from its characteristic brick buildings. The picturesque old town with its famous cathedral of Sainte-Cécile now offers yet another attraction: As part of an extensive urban regeneration project, French star architect Dominique Perrault has built the Grand Théâtre des Cordeliers at the fringe of the historic town centre. Besides a 900-seat theatre and an experimental hall with a further 250 seats, the 30,000 square metre complex also houses a cinema with eight screens, an underground car park, restaurants, administration and congress rooms. The dominating element of this construction is the Grand Théâtre, whose three-dimensional façade of gold-coloured anodised aluminium mesh has become a new landmark of the picturesque town. During the day, the semi-transparent golden skin encloses the compact, plain building like an inflated sail. At night, when the building is lit from the inside, it takes on a mystical appearance. The spectacular construction of the woven membrane was made possible by specially developed Escale spiral mesh manufactured by the world’s leading technical weaving operation, GKD – Gebr. Kufferath AG.a
The small town of Albi in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France with its rich historical and cultural heritage is a well-kept secret. In 2010, UNESCO added the episcopal quarter at the heart of the historic town centre with the fortified Sainte-Cécile cathedral, the bishop’s Palais de la Berbie and the church of Saint-Salvi to the list of World Heritage Sites. Art fans will delight in a visit to the museum of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the town’s most famous son, since almost a third of his life’s work is on display here. Culinary delicacies of the town, which has just 50,000 inhabitants, include fine cheeses, black truffles and exquisite wine. Now, the Cordelier district at the end of Avenue Charles de Gaulle also includes the town’s Grand Théâtre with yet another treat for the senses. Based on a design by Dominique Perrault, an interconnected cultural and congress centre was built that links part of the new town with its historical core. The woven skin of the Grand Théâtre, which in the sunshine casts a golden light on the red brick architecture typical of the region, is clearly visible from as far away as the gentle hills surrounding Albi. Viewed up close, the simple geometry of the structure with its shimmering shell blends in organically with the surrounding buildings. A golden glass façade with a sophisticated grid construction opens up onto the square in front of the theatre. Inside, the copper-coloured sun protection glass combined with the characteristic yellow bricks which are also typical of the region cast a warm light. The basement houses an eight-screen cinema covering 7,800 square metres and an underground car park which takes up a further 12,800 square metres. From the light-flooded, ground-level entrance hall, two sweeping stairways lead up to theatre balconies, rehearsal stage and offices on the floors above. A roof garden restaurant with hanging gardens puts the town of Albi with its picturesque surrounding landscape at visitors’ feet. However, the Grand Théâtre is given its distinctive character by the golden shell made from semi-transparent aluminium mesh which encircles the whole building. Its concave shape softens the purist austerity of the angular structure and gives it an appearance of lightness which, according to Perrault, creates an almost poetic effect in combination with the sun. On the long side facing towards the square, the arched, cut-off building shell is reminiscent of an open stage curtain.
An architectural vision brought to life Perrault’s spectacular design proposal posed a number of seemingly unsolvable challenges for GKD. Throughout its almost 20-year partnership with the world renowned architect known for his sophisticated designs, the company always succeeded in bringing his architectural visions to life by coming up with innovative solutions. In response to Perrault’s precisely drafted opposing curves and the different heights of the mesh shell, GKD therefore produced a customised version of the Escale type spiral mesh with a spacing of 150 x 20 millimetres. Manufacturing and assembling each customised length spiral – of which there were 4,835 in total – was a feat of production. From a total of 36 panels each measuring 10.50 x 7.30 metres – none of which included a right angle – GKD formed the 4,800 square metre large, three-dimensional curved veil. The golden colour of the anodised aluminium mesh was also specially adapted to the colour of the stone façades in the historic town centre of Albi, in accordance with precise instructions from Perrault. The arched and at the same time concave edge design of the woven shell posed a further challenge for GKD. For this, the angled longitudinal sides and bottom edges were fixed to the substructure with additional side supports. Stainless steel cables were inserted into the mesh for this special attachment.
Masterful functionality The visual impact of a compact structure viewed through a woven veil which is typical of Perrault subtly connects the interior of the Grand Théâtre in Albi with the exterior, while at the same time separating it. With its reflection of light, sun and movement, the shell cut like a flared dress enters into a continual dialogue with the surroundings. As with all of Perrault’s designs, for which he re-interprets the possibilities of GKD metallic mesh again and again, the functional properties were deciding factors in addition to the unusual appearance of the metallic skin. The semi-transparent, all-encompassing skin efficiently filters the sunlight entering the building and thus plays a temperature-regulating function. Nevertheless, thanks to its open area of 37 per cent, the mesh allows maximum possible use to be made of daylight. The construction also serves as effective protection from rain and wind in the often harsh climate of the Midi-Pyrénées.
Like with his first major project using GKD metal mesh, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris in the early 1990s, Perrault also uses the expressive power of the woven texture in the interior of the Grand Théâtre. 375 square metres of Escale 5x1 made from anodised aluminium sheets in a light gold shade pick up on the dominating colour of the bricks typical of the region which have been used on the floor, walls and roof. A total of 16 panels each measuring 6x4 metres play with the incident light to create a warm, shimmering skin. In the design for the Grand Théâtre des Cordeliers, Perrault has once again manifested his philosophy of closely intertwining his architecture with the surroundings. For him, the textile shell of the theatre is the metaphor of a creative work with a tailor-made robe and is thus haute couture for the Grand Théâtre des Cordeliers in the truest sense of the words.