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parallel theatre

UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH (E.S.A.L.A) M.Arch – 2010/11

Hungary experienced a vibrant cultural life under its Communist rule from 1956. Greater public accessibility to the arts was brought about with heavy subsidies on ticketing and performers, musicians, artists and writers being treated to guaranteed steady salaries. However, this security was only granted at a price; the price being the complete suppression of opposing ideas being expressed through art works and performances and obeying strict censorship regulations. Following the totalitarian culture’s downfall in 1989, the restrictions of artistic expression disappeared, along with the widespread funding and audience accessibility, thus again creating new barriers to cultural experimentation.

The primary aim of my proposal, ‘The Parallel Theatre’, is to facilitate and encourage radical theatrical experimentation with adaptable performance spaces that engage with the city as its audience. Locating this radical new building in the conservative historical Castle District, on the Buda side of Budapest, not only highlights the new tolerance of the country’s political landscape in accepting such a facility, but also injects a new, much needed creative hub for residents, in a predominantly tourist orientated part of the city. ‘The Castle District’ itself is defined by the surrounding defensive castle walls, built in the 13th century and then periodically rebuilt outwards as defensive needs increased. This building occupies this underground negative space, by excavating the infill between the old and the newer walls, beneath the south/west castle promenade.

The Parallel Theatre’s program works as a machine, encompassing the entire theatre making process. To the rear of the main theatre auditorium, a glue-lam timber structure provides a large open workshop space, which is zoned for costume making, prop making and set building, with scenic painting facilities along the length of the space. Storage vaults for these objects lie beneath; as lending facility by other theatres throughout Budapest. Adjacent to this are exhibition spaces that showcase these often discarded theatre artworks. Suspended above the workshops is a theatrical library with writing spaces, and a dance studio with mirrored walls that can be raised and lowered to covert the room into a performing space. As a contemporary take on the traditional medieval transportable wagon theatres; small, adaptable timber performance pods are prepared within the workshops, which then traverse along tracks attached to the outside of the castle wall- providing opportunity for outside theatre to passing audiences.

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