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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. This project seeks to create a new typology of theater that is accessible to all despite any differences of tradition, culture or language.

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 accentuates the space’s raw, industrial character, creating a universal stage for experimental theater.

In collaboration with international artists and choreographers, Volksbühne is developing a diverse program of performances, concerts, exhibitions, and discussions. In order to accommodate such a range of activities, the components of the theater are designed to reconfigure to the specific needs of an event or performance.

With audiences ranging from 500 to 1000 people, the performative façade will rise 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 theater, dance and music outside the boundaries of a traditional theater setting.

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

SIZE: 900 
CLIENT: 
Volksbühne Berlin