The Open International Competition for the Development of an Architectural Concept for the Galiasgar Kamal Tatarian State Academic Theatre has announced its results. The consortium including Kengo Kuma & Associates was granted the first place, while the second place went to a proposal led by Asif Kahn Studio and the third place to Coop Himmelb(l)au and his team.
Scheduled to be implemented in 2025, the winning proposal imagined by Kengo Kuma & Associates, Werner Sobek AG, Wowhaus bureau, and the Personal creative workshop of architect Bakulin German Alekseevich will create a new space for the Galiasgar Kamal Theatre, one of the region’s oldest Tatar national theatre. Located in Kazan, in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, the Galiasgar Kamal Theatre is characterized by its “interpretations of the Tatar art, its rich repertoire, and the use of different techniques and Tatar language”.
Aligned with the main purpose of the competition, which is to use “architectural language to express the part of the national culture that has been cherished and interpreted by the theatre company for decades”, the winning proposal put in place a project inspired by the rare natural phenomenon of "ice flowers" present on the Kaban Lake. Transformed into a landmark, another attraction for the city, the building connects to the unique surrounding ecosystem and to the center of vivid urban life. The intervention will take on three halls: main, universal, and eastern, as well as creative and educational laboratories, a public area, and rehearsal and administrative spaces.
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Held in two stages, the open competition attracted 87 companies from 14 countries. 537 architects from across the world submitted their applications to the competition. The second stage held in October 2021 defined eight finalist consortia.
Read on to discover the three winning concepts with their respective brief descriptions.
Kengo Kuma & Associates, Werner Sobek, Wowhaus Bureau, and Personal creative workshop of architect Bakulin German Alekseevich
The geometry of the new theatre is inspired by a rare natural phenomenon: "ice flowers" on the Kaban Lake. In winter, the building’s volume will merge with the surroundings and become part of the lake. In summer the unity with the landscape will be achieved through the multifaceted reflections of the transparent facades on water. The "pointedness" and aspiration are characteristic features of Tatar culture, architecture, and art.
The new building is conceived as part of the topography of the place, as a park with pedestrian routes and recreational areas integrated into and picking up from the existing waterfront improvements. A form inspired by the Tartar soul itself: sharp/closed on the outside and soft/hospitable inside. The lighting concept is to light up the warm inner space of the foyer and gradually dissolve the light with the triangular panels of the façade. The brightly ornamented paneling in the interior refers to traditional Tatar crafts creating a welcoming atmosphere.
The foyer, devised as an 'urban living room' visually connects the city and the lake. Entrances from all sides of the building draw pathways for visitors naturally providing at the same time light and ventilation. The concept builds a comfortable environment and convenient navigation for all theatre workers: a spacious floor for artists and administration, and comfortable accommodation for all workshops. The underground floor area is minimized in order to facilitate access and maintenance and to reduce construction and operating costs.
The look of the new facades is a reference to the complex, multi-layered cultural context of the Kamal Theatre. There are pieces of paper here — formerly handwritten texts of scripts for theatrical productions, now a perfect background to intensify the colors of nature. The silhouette of brick facades hides not only the image of the Kazan Kremlin and its white stone walls but also the aesthetics of both Sufi philosophy and Soviet modernism, which strives for purity of form. Not a direct quote, but a call to discover.
The building does not suppress the existing landscape but becomes a part of the shore of Nizhny Kaban Lake. All facades of the theater are equally important, as are the different worldviews, languages, cultural layers, and traditions within Tatar society. The only part that rises above the facades is the vertical cubic capacity of the stage box, representing a symbolic axis, the city's cultural life.
Panoramic glazing helps include the interior into urban views, making them even more eye-catching. The arched windows of the new theater resemble the silhouette of the old theater, which can be seen in the distance. So a strong connection between the past and the future can be felt. The large carved entrance door is another homage and reference to the ancient wooden architecture of the Tatar people.
Coop Himmelb(l)au Wolf D. Prix & Partners, Metropolis and Miriada Group
The new Galiasgar Kamal Tatar State Academic Theatre embodies an open, consciously outwardly unstable architecture and thus reflects the idea of democracy. While the theater is aesthetically considered as a functional monument, the building itself is not just a solid structure. It is, rather, an open space, receptive to both its surroundings and the possibilities around it.
The conceptual design of the new theater is dedicated to all visitors and to the citizens of Kazan. The new Kamal Theatre is not only a theater venue but also a new public space that embodies architecture beyond its material incarnation. On the one hand, the theater exists in balance with the forces of nature, such as the sun, wind, water, and soil, while on the other hand, it is deeply rooted in local traditions and culture, thus becoming an ecologically oriented building and a place of cultural development.
The building and site, located between the city and the shore of Lake Kaban, can connect citizens with this natural landscape, becoming a new point of attraction. Infrastructural development and the creation of new connecting hubs will help develop the theater site, which will become a vibrant public space as well as a new tourist attraction for the city.