We conceived the new Bateau Feu theatre in Dunkirk both as an open urban venue – which is welcoming by the diversity of the complementary programme of events and activities that it provides and their strategic orientation in the urban space – and as a structuring civic building and arts amenity located on the Place du Général de Gaulle square.
By its location on Place du Général de Gaulle, the Bateau Feu theatre orchestrates several scales and dimensions, with four free façades that face onto and react to various different urban situations: an intimate domestic scale on the west for housing and the planted garden, a public scale on Rue du Jeu de Paume, a developing future major thoroughfare onto which the shops of the future shopping centre face, and a non-institutional scale on Place du Général de Gaulle which questions the expression of a new contemporary theatre in the city.
On the east, the façade of the theatre’s large hall faces onto the urban space in an architectural and spatial composition which links together the inside and outside of the amenity.
On the south, the theatre “enters the city”, welcoming the public in the flow of spaces designed on the urban site. The open, generous entrance foyer – which is itself in dialogue and spatially connected with the large hall on the ground floor – and the small hall, the café bar, the bookshop and the lounge areas on a south-east diagonal which links together these social meeting-places.
The glazed monumental staircase leading to the raised foyer and to the upper entrance to the large hall, placed on the south façade on the side of the entrance esplanade, also participates in this spatial scenography of the theatre’s significant spaces. Visually, it opens the space on the underside of the forum pierced by large voids, allowing through top lighting and revealing the volume of the large hall. A chandelier designed like a lighted canopy increases the theatrical effect and corresponds to the vibrations of the internal space.
Expression and materiality The renovated theatre is a unified building that is arranged in steps that descend to the square in a succession of light, vibrant volumes from the stage-house to the foyer. The architectural expression chosen for the theatre’s façades is a perforated metal cladding in a range of luminous ochre tones which matches the mystery and magic of the theatre.
The successive setbacks of stepped volumes reveal a series of large illuminated “frames” that face towards the square. An artificial lighting system shall be placed in these frames, between the rain barrier and the perforated metal cladding, to create night lighting and to visually enhance the theatre and the square.
On the west, in the garden, the building melts into the intimacy of the housing with an anthracite brick plinth that matches the scale of the block of housing and creates a visual distance from the perforated metal elements located in the background.
This new theatre is open to everyone. Its extension and rehabilitation provides an opportunity for experimenting the effects of architectural and urban renovation on the public. It offers a variety of spaces and provides a multitude of possibilities for using, occupying and experiencing the various spaces related to the theatre and its annexes, to cater for different types of people and allow different circulation flows of people at the same time.