Renovation of the Scala theatre hall

Kortrijk

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Human-oriented architecture with a specific program

The Scala is the new theatre hall and workplace of De Unie der Zorgelozen, a  social-artistic stage company from Kortrijk. The reason for the project was the purchase of a dilapidated party hall from the 1940s, in an inner area near the city centre of Kortrijk. The empty building has served as a parking garage for the neighbourhood for decades. In 2009, the client bought the building from the City of Kortrijk. Initially, the intention was to refresh the two houses in Pluimstraat and the Scalazaal building behind them. This idea soon had to be abandoned. The rectangular party hall – a charming building with a Roman roof, cast iron columns and inside a continuous balcony over the entire floor, fell far short of contemporary standards of stability, accessibility and fire safety. The idea of soft renovation was largely replaced by a resolutely replacement new building, albeit with as much respect for the past as possible.

The two terraced houses that closed off the party hall from the street were an obstacle to the supply and removal of decors and did not leave enough space for a legal fire passage. The program was therefore forced to be expanded considerably with all the elements needed to make all artistic and social ambitions and wishes possible. It soon took on unforeseen proportions from basement to attic. At first sight, this made it no longer a financially viable option for the client and the search for subsidies could get off to a good start. B2Ai fully agreed with this evolution and helped to make it a feasible and affordable project.

“The original buildings were translated as economically as possible into a usable and contemporary concept.”

The renovation started in 2011. Through subsidies, crowdfunding, sponsorship and a lot of goodwill, the programme was now fully implemented.

To start, the two terraced houses were demolished. A new building was built on almost the same footprint, serving as an open bar, dining area, meeting room and foyer. For the company and its target audience, a low threshold, a permanent open door and close contact with the neighbourhood are of great importance. These requirements translate into a complete glazing on the street side and a warm and homely interior design. Along the spacious passage to the hall, additional loading and unloading space is provided, also on the upper floors.

The old stage hall was almost completely rebuilt in the spirit of the original Scala, without wanting to be a copy. The old bricks were recovered, the roof typology was copied with a number of contemporary modifications and the floor balconies were given a 21st-century variant. Similar brick tones were chosen for the new building, but by varying the joint, a nice contrast between old and new can be seen on the courtyard. During the preparation of the works, an extra terraced house in Sint-Janshof could be purchased at the rear of the theatre building, which now serves as a backstage and lodges for artists.

“The project is the result of combined forces of client, designer, local entrepreneurs, subsidising government and the broad support base of the company.”

In order to keep the realisation as economical as possible, no general contractor was used. The selection of separate subcontractors allowed conscious choices to be made in terms of choice of materials and atmosphere, in line with the spirit of the original building and with the needs and desired image of the future project.

From March 2017 onwards, the whole is a warm biotope for about 150 volunteers who form the supporters of the company and who rehearse, perform, and work on text and scenery. The major changes to the building program have finally led to a well-equipped theatre accommodation, which offers additional opportunities for intensive sharing and opens up new perspectives for future operation.

For B2Ai, the Scala is an atypical project in terms of scale, programme and approach. During design and follow-up, we searched down to the smallest detail for suitable answers, often also to non-explicitly asked questions. The Scala is a project with which B2Ai demonstrates that all expertise can be used integrally for a people-oriented approach, which is as inspiring as it is useful for all concerned.

“Even if, as an architect, we have not benefited financially, the great human warmth that the intense cooperation with the Union has generated throughout the whole process is priceless and should never be forgotten.”

Location
Kortrijk

Region
Flanders

Status
Completed in 2017

Floor area
1.750 m²

Cooperation form
Classical conception project

Picture and photography
Klaas Verdru

Type
Culture

Team
Client: Unie der Zorgelozen vzw
Architect: B2Ai
Interior architect: B2Ai
Akoestics: Kahle
Theater techniques: TTAS