Kéré Architecture Kéré Architecture

Volksbühne Satellite Theater at Flughafen Tempelhof

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The new artistic director of the Berlin Volksbühne, Mr. Chris Dercon, announced in September 2016 a new initiative for a temporary theater space inside the historic Berlin Tempelhof Airport. This announcement marks yet a new chapter in the complex history of the 93-year-old airport where, since October 2015, more than 8000 refugees have been offered emergency shelter following the massive influx of people escaping war in the Middle East and other global conflicts. As Germany has become a major destination for millions of the displaced, Berlin itself has especially seen a cultural shift with the city’s increasingly diverse inhabitants..

It is with increased sensitivity towards this issue that Volksbühne asked Francis Kéré to lead the design for a new satellite space inside one of the monumental aircraft hangars, Hangar 5.This project seeks to create a new typology of theater that is accessible to all, despite any differences of tradition, culture or language.

When the Lotto Stiftung granted the funds for the project, only three months before the planned opening, the team started to redesign their initial idea (a theater that would sit up to 1000 people) immediately. With the given funds only a preamble of the initial project was possible to construct. Building from the richness of possibilities that the spirit of aviation and the site imbue, first modules of the Volksbühne Satellite Theater were designed, detailed and built. This was done in less than two months, inside the colossal stage of the aircraft hangar of Tempelhof Airport.

Inspired by street theatre, the urban Agora and the Piscator’s total theatre, this theatre redefines Hangar 5’s 4000 m2 area and creates opportunities for communal artistic experiences. The theatre is pared-down to the essentials, recalling a workshop, and consists of a modular grandstand element clad with light wood, supplemented by eight adaptable elements, sitting for 400 spectators in total.
The two tribunes have 12 rows each with a 33cm’s incline, and the last row of seats reaches a height of approximately 3.96 meters. The grandstands are covered with wood and equipped with blue seat cushions, while their back is enclosed by a white curtain. The mobile seating elements, the tops of which are detachable and also wrapped in a blue fabric, can be flexibly positioned as needed. This newly created theatre space is intended to reflect what happens inside as well as outsidedue to the white transparent fabric surrounding it.

Ultimately, the goal of this project is to foster a new type of theater experience, one that is conducive to collaboration, improvisation, and communication. The barriers between audiences and artists are dismantled, both literally and metaphorically, promoting inclusiveness through verbal and non-verbal exchanges. This new architecture will offer the diverse community a physical, tangible, and direct experience of theater, dance, and music, outside the boundaries of a traditional theater setting.

STATUS: Temporary Installation 
SITE: Tempelhof Airport / Berlin / Germany
SIZE: 300 m2
CLIENT: Volksbühne Berlin