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Competition: Municipal theatre of Bologna

The City of Bologna has announced an open ideas contest to upgrade its historic municipal theatre (Deadline: 16 September)

The single-stage competition seeks proposals to ‘renovate and enhance’ the 18th-century landmark, known locally as the Teatro Comunale di Bologna and considered to be one of Italy’s most important opera venues.

The call for ideas aims to generate phased conceptual visions to overhaul the Antonio Galli Bibiena-designed venue and improve its connections to the surrounding district, which includes the historic University of Bologna.

Municipal theatre of Bologna

Municipal theatre of Bologna

Source: Image by Lorenzo Gaudenzi

Municipal theatre of Bologna

According to the brief: ‘The municipal theatre is located in an area of the historical city centre normally defined as “Zone U” in reference to the presence of buildings that host offices and establishments pertaining to the University of Bologna.

‘The goals of the renovation and enhancement project are to redefine the theatre’s relationship to this urban area and enhance the potential of its role as an “urban device” capable of opening out to its surroundings, thereby activating and maintaining new relationships with the physical and social context over time.’

Bologna is Italy’s seventh largest city and capital of the country’s Emilia-Romagna region. The municipal theatre was created in 1763 to replace an earlier opera venue which had burned down.

The historic complex features a distinctive bell-shaped auditorium with four levels of private boxes.

Submissions – which must be in Italian – will be judged on their ability to create a contemporary theatre open to the city, to ensure the protection of the historic structure, to boost the surrounding area’s liveability, and to protect the environment.

Judges will include Guendalina Salimei from the Bologna Association of Architects; Marco Pretelli of the University of Bologna’s Department of Architecture; and Francesco Evangelisti, director of urban plans and projects at the City of Bologna.

The overall winner will receive €12,000 while a second prize of €10,000 and third prize of €8,000 will also be awarded. The client may then appoint the winner to design and deliver the scheme.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 16 September

Contact details

Comune di Bologna
U.I. Appalti e Contratti


View the contract notice and visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Valentina Orioli

The deputy mayor of Bologna discusses her ambitions for the competition

Valentina Orioli

Valentina Orioli

Valentina Orioli

Why are you holding an international ideas contest to renovate and enhance the Municipal Theatre of Bologna?

The call for ideas is the result of the works of U-Lab, a Laboratory activated within the H2020 Rock project, which involved the theatre and the surrounding university area (Zone U), led by the City of Bologna, the University of Bologna, the municipal theatre, Fondazione Rusconi, Fondazione per l’Innovazione Urbana. Following a broad and shared process that pointed out the goals of the transformation of the theatre and its surroundings, the contest is certainly the best way to gather different points of view on the topic and to choose the one that best interprets the needs of the city. At international level, many competitions have promoted similar themes, inviting designers to deal with ancient buildings and with special functions such as theatres or houses of music; in Italy, architectural contests are unfortunately not yet the preferred tool for selecting designers, and it is also for this reason that the Municipality of Bologna and the Teatro Comunale wished to proceed in this way.

What is your vision for the new opera venue?

The competition area is wide because for us it is important to gain an overall view of the theatre in its context, but the first design phase will focus on the transformations of the theatre to improve its functionality and openness to the city. Sustainability, accessibility, and a design that respects the quality of the building, which is listed, are three essential elements of the project.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition aims to highlight new talents, but the actual commission will depend on the verification of the various service requirements, therefore collaboration between disciplines is encouraged. The building is listed and as such the presence of an architect qualified to restore cultural artefacts according to current Italian regulation is necessary.

Municipal theatre of Bologna

Municipal theatre of Bologna

Source: Image by Alespal

Municipal theatre of Bologna

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Previously together with Bologna Association of Architects we promoted the ‘Itabashi calls Bologna’ contest for students and a design competition for Carracci schools. We are working on competitions for the schools of the Navile market district and for the renewal of Bologna’s bus station.

Are there any other recent concert theatre renovation projects you have been impressed by?

In general terms I appreciate renovation projects that establish new relationships between historic public buildings and the city. I was impressed by the Ecole de Musique by Louviers of Opus 5, and also the Teatro Thalia in Lisbon by Gonçalo Byrne. From a design perspective I also appreciate projects that are capable of delivering a fertile and respectful comparison with ancient structures, such as the cultural centre ‘Escuela Pias de San Fernando’ by Linazasoro & Sánchez or the extension of the Unterlinden museum in Colmar by Herzog & De Meuron.

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