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Neo-Shakepsearean Theatre


Coburg, Germany



This project presents a replacement theatre for the Coburg Landstheater which is about to close for renovation. It builds upon certain aspects of our Hardelot Theatre, developing this for an urban context and for increased multifunctionality.


Key functional features

-350-seat auditorium with (overall) 16 x 17 metre stage with fully motorised, accessible grid at 8 metres above the stage. Controllable natural lighting and auditorium acoustic balanced for speech and lyric music, with some volumetric variability.

-Highly flexible stage configurations, including Shakespearean (requiring no further settings) and end-stage. Orchestra pit available as option.

-Flexible, motorised stalls floor for improved sightlines in end-stage configuration.

-1,500 square metres of dedicated backstage spaces (excluding the stage itself), in modular construction permitting repurposing for other uses (e.g. exhibition, conference breakout). This space can be extended if necessary with temporary buildings for the Landstheater residency.

-1,000 square metres of front of house public space including a distinctive public restaurant/bar, generous toilet and cloakroom facilities and a special rooftop space (described below).

-Fully naturally ventilated auditorium using a ‘solar chimney’ system, which becomes one of the key signatures of the building, Energy-positive standards concerning energy consumption.

-No basement level (apart from the small ventilation plenum trench), permitting super-fast construction.

-Wood and steel structure using a frame and panel method for the auditorium volume, allowing a very high degree of prefabrication including MEP systems. The auditorium wall is made of a of very deep ‘breathing wall’ built in tower segments. The depth allows accommodation of scenic cableways, drain pipes and light locks, and permits very fast erection with factory levels of craftsmanship and finish.

-There is a large extent of photovoltaic panels on the roof which become one of the building’s key features (the ‘Crystal’ aspect).


Building Theme and Image

Prince Albert brought from Coburg to Victorian Britain an astonishing German pragmatism and inventiveness, which resulted in epoch-defining projects such as the Crystal Palace for the 1851 Universal Exhibition and system-build, high-quality housing for modest families. With architect Joseph Paxton he developed a range of innovations such as on-site production lines (on railway tracks) and large-scale prefabrication. (It is not widely known that the principal roof structure of the Crystal Palace was in wood.)

We celebrate Albert’s legacy in our project by manifesting a unique meeting of British poetry and German precision and inventiveness. We are especially proud to put forward this theme in the context of a pilot group comprising leading industrialists and inventors.

The project we propose sends an image to the world of the simplicity, pragmatism, poetry and cosmic resonances of the Globe Theatre, contained in a diaphanous wood and glass structure recalling Albert’s London Crystal Palace. 


The Signature Spaces

This sketch scheme comprises two signature spaces (above and beyond the auditorium itself):


-A rooftop glass room offering panoramic views over the Coburg city and landscape, with exterior viewing terraces, including one facing towards Veste Coburg. This 300 square metre room can be used for VIP receptions, rehearsals, concerts, conference sessions and banquets, as well as private events separate from the theatre such as weddings and parties. It is reached by lift and by the theatre foyer’s monumental stair, itself encased in a glass and wood cylinder of gossamer lightness. The ‘crystal room’ is enclosed by a double-walled glass cylinder mounted on the auditorium drum which acts as the passive ‘solar chimney’ driving the theatre’s natural ventilation circuit. The form and location of this space make it a spectacular collision of the cosmic associations of the Renaissance modles with the highest levels of approach to out contemporary cnocern with the degradation of the world through overconsumption of energy and resources.


- A street-level restaurant and bar -serving as the main welcome space of the theatre- under a skylit radial structure recalling the ‘crystal’ rooftop space. The circular roof -equivalent in diameter to the main ‘drum’- intersects with it in an ‘eclipse,’ referencing the early astronomical diagrams of Shakespeare’s time, and recalling the cosmic references of the Globe’s iconography (including zodiac paintings on the stage roof). The delicate rod structure also recalls Elizabethan costume ruffs and Bavarian vernacular ‘Strohsterne’ decorations. 


The intersection of these two volumes (the ‘eclipse’) becomes the transition to the theatre foyer, high and generously naturally lit. The monumental stair ascending to the roof begins just inside this volume, meaning that 75% of the audience (entering the stalls or going to the first balcony) is only a few steps away from their seats at this point. The plan is extraordinarily efficient in terms of movement.


The two-storey rectangular backstage volume forms the backdrop to the restaurant, with loggias allowing performers to salute the audience after performances, and for small-format concerts in intervals and before the show. These spaces can also be repurposed for conference breakout. A welcome counter presenting cloakroom and ticket facilities extends into the restaurant bar counter, with public toilet facilities situated behind.


Key facts

Building footprint 39 x 47 metres

Height 18 metres

Auditorium volume 26 metres wide

Overall floor area 3,200 square metres

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