PLZEŇ – The Czech city of Plzeň – famous for its pilsner beer – has recently opened a new theatre to increase its cultural offerings in anticipation of its upcoming stint as the European capital of culture in 2015. Although the 2009 competition was won by the Portugese outfit Contemporânea, the design proved to be too expensive and was eventually extensively reworked and adapted by Prague-based Helika.
Standing on a busy intersection to the west of Plzeň’s historic core, the aptly named Nové Divadlo – New Theatre – is the first new-built theatre to be realised in Czech Republic for 30 years. The programme is divided into two distinct, long volumes with a quiet plaza in between. The slimmer of the two volumes, clad in dark panels, runs alongside a busy street and accommodates offices and dressing rooms, as well as technical spaces. It also acts as a sound barrier for the adjacent volume that is clad in red concrete.
Inside the larger volume, two halls – one seating 461 and the other 150 – are ready to host a varied programme of theatre, opera and ballet performances. The audience can access the building through the plaza, whereas the performers and personnel can use overhead glass bridges or underground tunnels to do so. An additional concrete screen with oval perforations shields the building from the street, and – when illuminated at night – becomes part of the performance.