Proposal for a Performing Arts Center, The Anatomical Arena: A Continuous Performance, Leuven, Belgium, 2018

Team: Andrew Kovacs, Erin Wright in collaboration with Francois Chapelle

Project Description:

The Hertogensite has a long history of medical care with a hospital being located on the site for over a thousand years. Coincidentally, the site also has a history of the theater, or performance. In a very particular way, the presence of an anatomical theater is where architecture has the potential to house anatomical operations in a theatrical way.

Our proposal is conceived as a further hybridization of anatomical operations and performance through the lens of architecture. In other words, we aim to operate on the urban context with the precision of an anatomical surgeon to generate spaces dedicated to theater and performance for a broader collective. We aim to add new programs on this site through careful anatomic precision and by working with the existing relicts from different periods such as Oud Gasthuis and the medieval wall. At the same time, our approach of an anatomical surgeon allows us to prepare and plan for future programs such as housing, commercial and care to be added to the complex overtime. This operating procedure begins at the scale of the pedestrian and then moves up to the scale of architecture, and eventually to the scale of the city. As the new performing arts infrastructure will evolve over time, the performance and public spectacle will evolve with it hopefully generating new cultural moments for performance and architecture. We view the constant development of the site - its demolition and construction as being in tandem with performance. In other words we propose a continuous never ending performance, one that aims to collapse the distance between art and everyday life.

We imagine a number of cascading terraces that allow for public life to be elevated off the street and into the theater. We imagine two theaters to be embedded in this new cultural terraced landscape. Together, the cascading terraces and the new works of architecture aim to not bring the public to the theater but rather to bring the theater and therefore performance to the public. We imagine a flexible system that can accommodate a range of programs as well as an adjustment and rearrangement for future change and development. We believe this approach this approach doesn’t end at the site boundaries but rather extends into surrounding cultural venues and the city.