Ris Orangis, France
Working for the municipality of Ris Orangis and theatre director Irina Brook, Studio Andrew Todd (together with engineer Laurent Mouly, theatre consultants Charcoalblue and acoustician Paul Gillieron) have designed a structural timber theatre to be built partly in the river Seine which draws on the natural energies of its site to create what might be the world's first enclosed, fully-functional energy-independent performing arts facility.
Turbines in the river power low-energy LED theatre lighting; geothermal heat and natural cooling from the river complement the building's natural ventilation to regulate interior temperature; and a large rooflight allows natural-lit conditions for rehearsal and daytime technical work. At night (or for matinees) a 6 metre diameter blackout umbrella opens in the theatre's oculus to exclude all exterior light.
The auditorium is intimate but grand, seating up to 300 audience in a form recalling the Elizabethan theatre or the Bouffes du Nord theatre (which was discovered and transformed by Irina Brook's father Peter in the 1970s). A large upstage double door can open before and after the show so the audience can see the river and virgin forest on the opposite bank. Wooden side walls framing the stage can be folded back to give a circus configuration. Whilst there is a goods lift on piers in the river for hoisting scenery, the theatre is conceived for simple scenography, for telling a story or teasing out a tune using the human imagination as an amplifying force.
Apart from purely ecological benefits, the theatre's almost zero running costs will allow resources to be dedicated to theatrical experimentation rather than keeping a building lit and heated.
Client: Ville de Ris Orangis (Thierry Mandon, Mayor) and Irina Brook
Size: 320 sq.m
Budget: 1.8M euros
Studio Andrew Todd architects and auditorium designers
Federica von Euw
Advisor for bamboo structure: Simon Velez
Theatre tech: Charcoalblue
Acoustics: Gilleron Scott
Fire Engineering: Casso