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Volksbühne Satellite Theater at Tempelhof Airport

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The future artistic direction of the Berlin Volksbühne recently announced a new initiative for a temporary theater space inside the historic Berlin Tempelhof Airport. The 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 increasingly diverse inhabitants of the city.

With heightened sensitivity towards this issue, Volksbühne asked Francis Kéré to lead the design for a new satellite space inside one of the monumental aircraft hangars as a complement to the established stage spaces of the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. This project seeks to create a new typology of theater that is accessible to everybody despite differences in tradition, culture and language. International artists from different disciplines are invited to take advantage of the open, flexible architecture for their work and to seek dialogue with the monumental size, the changing history and the presence of this unique site in Europe.

Building from the richness of possibility that the spirit of aviation imbues on the site, the Volksbühne Satellite Theater is designed as a mobile structure which itself becomes a performer against the colossal stage of the aircraft hangar. Its extraordinary ceiling height and massive roller doors accent the space’s industrial character, creating a universal stage for experimental theater.

With audiences ranging from 500 to 1000 people, the performative façade will raise or lower to control visuals and acoustics where needed. For events of more than 1000 people, the mobile theater has the possibility to be wheeled through the massive doors of the hangar, giving the possibility of open-air panoramic views of Tempelhof grounds as a theatric backdrop.

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

Kéré Architecture, Volksbühne, Tempelhof GmbH and the city of Berlin are currently discussing strategies for developing a collaborative approach for realizing the project by integrating an interdisciplinary team of designers, technicians, and artists with a local community of native and new-coming Berliners. An extensive educational program for children of different ages and workshops for adults will form an integrated component of the building process.

STATUS: In Planning
SITE: Tempelhof Airport, Berlin, Germany

SIZE: 900 
CLIENT: 
Volksbühne Berlin