Lyric Theatre, Belfast, Ireland

Nos propusimos diseñar una casa para la lírica, conservando el espíritu de un teatro de producción. Tres grandes paredes de ladrillos crean los espacios para las funciones y los ensayos, estrechamente envueltas por un espacio social que fluye. Los espacios intermedios están diseñados para tener un carácter íntimo que puedan albergar eventos teatrales improvisados. Ahora que nuestro trabajo está terminado, el nuevo edificio se escapa de nuestras manos para valerse por sí mismo. Esperamos que pronto no se sienta tan nuevo, que sea reconocido como una continuación, como si siempre hubiera estado ahí, en el horizonte de la ciudad, saliendo del fondo profundo de la arquitectura urbana de Belfast , entre las calles de ladrillos y los altos árboles que se reflejan en el río, que pertenece a su lugar.

In 2003, the Lyric held an international architectural competition and selected O’Donnell + Tuomey as architects to design a new theatre. In May 2008, Belfast City Council granted planning approval for the development on the new Lyric Theatre. The development included the demolition of the existing theatre and the construction of a new building for use by the Lyric providing auditorium, rehearsal and studio theatre together with related technical facilities. Further accommodation includes reception, bar / foyer, offices and an education room. With demolition of the existing theatre completed in 2008 construction started on site in March 2009. O’Donnell + Tuomey were novated to the Main Contractor Gilbert Ash and excellent working relationships were quickly established between the various members of the building team. The new Lyric Theatre opened on 1st May 2011.

The American novelist Willa Cather described one of her early works as having been written before
…the time in a writer’s development when his life line and the line of his personal endeavour meet.

It seems to us that our work for the Lyric has emerged from just such a moment of intersection, when external circumstances and private purposes coincide. Experiments in overlapping geometry and three dimensional expression that were initiated several years ago in other projects and tested out at further stages in between have prepared us for this special public commission, a theatre in the city.  After eight years of immersion in architectural design, technical details, study models, working drawings, through the long drawn out processes of planning and construction, it is a strange sensation to walk through the new theatre, to see our first thoughts made real.

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We set out to design a House for Lyric, specific to the spirit of a producing theatre. Three brick-walled purpose-made spaces for performance and rehearsal are tightly wrapped around a flowing social space. The in-between spaces are designed to have an intimate character, providing for impromptu theatrical occasions. Now that our work is done, the newly finished building passes out of our hands to fend for itself in the world. We hope that it will soon feel not so new, rather that it will be recognised as continuing the cultural ambition of the Lyric, as if this crystalline cluster has always been there on the city skyline, rising out of the deep background of Belfast’s urban architecture, between brick streets and tall trees, reflected in the river, belonging to its place.

Volumetric spaces are produced as a direct consequence of the plan itself and the spatial scheme for the Lyric exploits the topographical aspects of its urban landscape setting. Our design found its form in reaction to the different pressures of its surroundings, from the constraints of the site. The impact of site vectors worked their way inwards from the world outside to influence the configuration of the plan.

The Lyric plan is composed out of three constituent elements, the auditorium, the studio and the rehearsal room. Each element had to be acoustically separated from the other and each is identifiably outlined in its own shell of Belfast brick. There are three different points of entry, one for trucks and two for people, all tied to existing street levels. The rehearsal room is raised up to provide social space in its undercroft. The dismembered unity of the plan is a direct response to functional requirements and the complexity of the section results from our efforts to resolve the sometimes conflicting demands imposed by a tightly restricted and steeply sloping site. But there is more to design than problem solving, there is a parallel purpose that keeps us going, and that is the pursuit of architectural form.

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