Modeling Sound and Light | The Plan
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Modeling Sound and Light

Flanagan Lawrence

Modeling Sound and Light
By Elisa Grossi -

Located on a hilly slope in Jan Kasprowicz Park in the Niemierzyńska Valley just outside the port city of Szczecin, Poland, the renovated Helena Majdaniec Summer Theater appears, when it first comes into sight, like a low-lying cloud. Its most striking feature is undoubtedly the dynamic sculptural roof designed by the London-based firm Flanagan Lawrence, winner of the competition called a few years earlier by the city authorities to renovate the facility. First opened in 1976, Szczecin’s open-air theater was given a large concrete arch by architect Zbigniew Abrahamowicz, who clearly referenced the Gateway Arch of Saint Louis, Missouri, Eero Saarinen’s monumental Gateway to the West. Flanagan Lawrence’s brief was to modernize the existing theater, making it suitable for different types of performances, but also provide a canopy that would shelter both stage and audience. The new tensile structure embraces both. Significant changes were made to the stage, while the stalls – now seating just over 2,700 people with views across to the nearby Lake Rusałka – underwent less significant remodeling. The new program added several accessory functions, such as an open-air foyer, viewing platform, services and a renovated backstage area. Much attention was also given to how the building related with the landscape and its historic site. This, together with the new high-precision
site-specific sound and lighting system make for an intricate project whose complexity, although concealed, delivers excellent visual and acoustic quality. The canopy spreads out over the theater like an umbrella, following the morphology of the terrain and curving slightly to pass under the arch. Structurally independent of the arch, the roof resembles a saddle astride the facility below. Advanced parametric modeling algorithms were used to define the best roof geometry allowing iterative optimization of the component parts. The steel structure comprises a curving...

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