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LAAGER THEATRE, NEWTOWN, COMPLETED 2015

(COURTESY OF MRA)

The client of the project is the Market Theatre located in Newtown, Johannesburg. the brief was to design a new Theatre to replace the old Laager Theatre.

The building sits in a wedge between two 100 year old buildings and serves as a ÒbridgeÓ physically connecting both. the idea of ÒbridgingÓ is a strong spatial idea in the building illustrated, for example, where a century old pedestrian bridge lands on its first floor terrace.

The Theatre can also be accessed directly from the public street, unique in a very crime conscious city. Once entered the building does not mimic old brick walls but rather creates a contemporary contrast of clean off-shutter concrete. The Theatre box itself is experimental allowing for five different stage configurations. Back of house areas are functional yet blasts of colour in the joinery remind the users of the playfulness of program.

The area of Newtown is known for its red brick. this brick was matched and used as an uninterrupted skin for the building. The architects explored subtle gestures of push and pull, trying to showcase the beauty of the material. this is especially seen in the window detail where cill, lintel and even bench are formed just by brick. The windows themselves are recessed deep into the reveal to help with shading on the north facade. These punctuations reveal a thickness of wall that adds a feeling of solidity to the posture of the building.

The century old pedestrian bridge, designed to span the old railway, is an example of the effort and sensitivity in the projects approach to heritage. The bridge was removed, dismantled, refurnished and reassembled to exactly the same condition as when it was first made. This bridge now lands on the first floor terrace of the Theatre, allowing the public direct access.

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