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Competition: Baleal Site Theatre, Portugal

An open international ideas competition has been announced for an open-air theatre near the ruined Baleal Fortress in Portugal (Deadline: 6 November)

Open to students and young architects aged under 40, the competition seeks conceptual proposals for a new ‘Site Theatre’ on a remote promontory close to the historic citadel.

Proposals must feature an entrance, performance space, outdoor seating, dressing area with private restrooms, a café, public toilets, and storage area. Concepts will be expected to ‘respect and celebrate’ the dramatic site while providing a unique experience for visitors.

Contest site: Baleal Fortress in Portugal

Contest site: Baleal Fortress in Portugal

Contest site: Baleal Fortress in Portugal

According to the brief: ‘The Baleal Fortress is a significant landmark located within a remarkable place; a powerful natural scenery where the remains of the fortress rise from the landscape and, together with the cliff surfaces eroded by the wind, are notable features within this setting.

‘The Site Theatre aims to create a new cultural destination and provide a place for open-air performances to enhance the experience within the landscape. The Site Theatre is a place to engage with the land, the sky and the sea, where performers and audience are both participants and observers while the landscape becomes a natural scenic venue.’

Baleal is a small village on a promontory located north of the settlement of Peniche in north-west Portugal. Between the 15th and 19th centuries, the village, which is connected to the mainland by a sandy beach, was transformed into a fortified citadel.

Today the northernmost point of the outcrop features the clifftop ruins of Baleal Fortress, which was constructed by Napoleonic forces in 1808. The wider area is also popular with surfers and body boarders due to its many beaches and suitable waves.

Contest site: Baleal Fortress in Portugal

Contest site: Baleal Fortress in Portugal

Contest site: Baleal Fortress in Portugal

The competition language is English and anonymous submissions should include a single A1-sized display board featuring drawings, renderings and text descriptions.

Proposals will be evaluated on their originality and quality, responsiveness to the brief, appropriateness to the site and context, and quality and clarity of presentation. Judges will include Argentina-based architect Luciano Kruk along with Lisa Ekstrom and Erik Gardell of Sweden’s Skälso Arkitekter.

The overall winner, due to be announced on 12 January, will receive a €2,000 prize while a second prize of €1,000 and third prize of €500 will also be awarded along with seven honourable mentions.

How to apply

Deadline

The registration deadline is 6 November and submissions must be completed by 11 September.

Fee

Early bird registration from 20 July to 25 September: €60
Advance registration from 26 September to 26 October: €75
Last minute registration from 27 October to 6 November: €90

Contact details

Email: info@arkxsite.com
Visit the competition website for more information

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre case study: Q&A with Haworth Tompkins

The London practice discusses lessons learned revamping an open-air theatre in Regent’s Park

How did your Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre project deliver an appropriate new venue for its location?

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre was established in 1932, and is one of the largest theatres in London, situated in the beautiful surroundings of a Royal Park, with both its stage and auditorium entirely uncovered. Over two phases, Haworth Tompkins brought the theatre into the 21st century by redesigning the front of house and technical spaces, and rationalising the layout of the site. We rejuvenated the landscape, rebuilt the dressing rooms, wardrobes and workshops, and created a new box office and sheltered seating canopy. We also relocated the theatre’s off-site offices, integrating them into the scheme.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Source: Image by Philip Vile

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

The box office forms the public face of the theatre and is open all year round. Outside of opening hours, it presents a subdued frontage to the park. However, when in use, the full height 3x3m door opens out to the park, revealing gilded foliage on its inner facings and hinting at the theatrical magic within. The theatre’s backstage area was entirely rebuilt. It follows the sweep of the inner circle and forms a protective enclosure of the site.

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

The new buildings, made entirely of natural timber, are designed to blur the distinction between them and the woodland setting, adding to the sense of romance and mystery. The offices are naturally lit and ventilated, with the majority of the windows located on the northern façade and between projecting fins to mitigate the noise and light towards the stage.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Source: Image by Philip Vile

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

The backstage buildings and the box office are made from prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, which allowed for construction within the six-month window between theatre seasons. The wood has been left exposed internally, removing the need for ‘wet’ trades such as plastering. Externally, the buildings are clad in rough-sawn larch boards. These are either stained a dark colour or left natural, echoing the repetitive verticality of the trees they sit among.

What advice would you have on designing an outdoor theatre near the Fortress of Baleal?

Our advice would be to make the best use of the unique site and its surrounding context. Carefully consider site logistics: what are the site constraints and opportunities, and how will they influence the design? It is also important to evaluate the choice of construction materials, fixtures and cladding – how appropriate are they for both their use and the site? Finally, consider the kinds of performances that will take place in the theatre and its various auxiliary functions.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Source: Image by Philip Vile

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Haworth Tompkins