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Festspielhaus Erl

Delugan Meissl Associated Architects

Festspielhaus Erl
By Caterina Testa -

Erl is a tiny village in Austria’s North Tyrol. Although an idyll of mountain, forests and pastures, it has been the repeated theatre of war and suffering down the centuries. During the last World War, the people of Erl resolved that if they survived, their village would be the venue for performances of the Passionsspiele, the plays of the Passion of Christ.
Since then Erl has hosted the Erl Tiroler Festspiele, a classical and sacred music festival held each year since 1959 in the Passionsspielhaus designed by Robert Schuller.
Almost fifty years later, the town has a new concert hall, the Festspielhaus, this time for a winter concert programme, that now sits alongside its summer partner.
Set against the mountains and forests of the Tyrol close to the pure white curve of the Passionsspielhaus, the new building designed by Delugan Meissl Associated Architects takes its cue from its natural surroundings and the history of the place, becoming the trait d’union between the two.
The spiky geometry, brown colour and materiality of the new volume take their cue from the rocky terrain on which it rests. Its dark mass seems to meld into the mountains behind and the trees in the foreground.
The older Passionsspielhaus and the new Festspielhaus have a diametrically opposite yet complementary relationship with their natural setting, and with each other: one, unforgivingly white, distant and ethereal, the other, the embodiment of dark materiality. Yet they offset and sustain one another.
The white Passionsspielhaus fades into non-existence in the snows of the winter months when the new festival hall comes into its own, while in the summer, the new volume is discreetly concealed by the trees to give pride of place to the historic concert hall.
The sloping terrain has been exploited to create a main entrance that resembles a split in a natural rock formation.
The interior is a striking contrast of light and dark, dynamism and...

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