The Fine Arts Academy Theatre in Naples has been a benchmark for art studies in southern Italy since the mid eighteenth century. It has now been restored to the city for teaching, research, production and acting activities, after painstaking restoration by the firm of Alvisi Kirimoto + Partners.
The project involved a functional re-thinking of stage and auditorium areas, the foyer, passageways and services for actors and audience. Research went into not only acoustics - a “must” for a theatre - but colours and materials, and the need to bring advanced technology into the building while respecting its architecture.
The operation began by removing unsuitable accretions over the years, opening up the windows onto the outside in the central portion, restyling the interior aesthetically, improving the auditorium acoustics and view of the stage, updating utility systems and reorganizing the backstage.
To match the existing interior materials and colours (floors of Carrara marble and bardiglio, white plastered walls, grey stone sills), the architects decided to make a linking feature of oak, bleached and stained dark grey, lining portions of auditorium wall and the suspended ceiling.
The grey wood contrasts with the white of the surrounding walls and the leather stalls (supplied by Poltrona Frau). This picks up the twin tones found throughout the Academy. The design of the large windows lends its geometrical motif to the acoustic panelling suspended overhead like leaves of grey wood shaped to favour the sound curve. More panels on the back wall, again in dark grey oak, pick up the pattern of the hanging ceiling. Inclined about 3° to the wall-line, these rear panels gradually bulge out towards the middle in a shape that helps refract the sound towards those in the back stalls.
Attention to acoustics was also matched by improvements in stage visibility. The pre-existing dais and floor were removed and replaced by a single raked auditorium floor structure, while staggering of the seats optimizes the spectators’ view of the stage throughout.