National Theatre of Belgium
Marie-Françoise Plissart

National Theatre of Belgium

l'escaut architectures as Architecture

L’Escaut has been cooperating with the National Theatre since 1990. This collaboration is a source of enthusiasm and reflection around the stakes in the theatrical world and its institution.


Between 1999 and 2001 studies were undertaken in order to determine the new implantation of the national theatre which had to leave the Martini tower (today destroyed).


Finally, the National Theatre was built in boulevard Jacqmain. The urban context is that of a classical XIXth century avenue: terraced buildings of similar heights into which the building integrates seamlessly. The limited size of the plot and the budget constraints lead to a very compact building.


The stake of the new home of the National Theatre is to embody the shifting identity of contemporary theatre, with the visibility that the plot in the centre of Brussels provides; and to do so by providing a flexible tool for the artists to work with.

National Theatre of Belgium

Architectes Associés as Architects

The National Theatre is like an isthmus, nestled into its tight urban fabric, poised between the frantic pace of the boulevard (main entrances, ticket offices, entrée des artistes,etc…) and the more tranquil one of the quiet back street where all services are organised. Delicately fitted into the surrounding urban vibrations it offers the passer-by a shimmering veil of undulating opalescent glass, transforming itself under fluctuating light and changing reflections. Through the veil of its façade, shadows of the theatre’s carefully proportioned features appear, chiselled with precision: the long and dense brief called for a « grande salle », a « petite salle », and a multipurpose rehearsal hall. The foyer meanders languidly between these functions, designed as continuous open space connecting street level and rooftops … front and back sides.


The large main theatre hall , variable in size and shape with a seating capacity of 752, allows for varied scenographies thanks in part to its proscenium which can extend in different directions. Entering it the ambiance is one of cryptic darkness, the dense blackness of the materials adding to the effect. With each new scenography, the spectator is instantly plunged into a novel light-induced mood. The smaller front theatre hall boasts 250 seats spread out on the 2nd and 3rd levels.


The rehearsal hall, with matching dimensions accommodating rehearsals identical to those held in the main hall, is positioned exactly above its model. With a clearance height of 10 metres pre-assembly of all types of even large-scale sets is possible. Because its neutrality is often the perfect backdrop, this space is, on occasion, opened to the public. These 3 halls plus secondary functions essential to the expression of all types of performing arts are articulated around a compact core of vertical circulation, completed by generous flights of stairs … the boundary-less foyer encompassing these with fluid ease.


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