MSA Stage 5 School of Architecture

Maria Kinash

The architectural stage set represents space, time, and movement, depicting life on streets. Old familiar locations, memories, and anecdotal spaces can be traced through the movement of people. The scale of 21st century commercial landscape was once unified with the car, however, the overdevelopment of buildings for private use decimated the humanistic experience of our streets. Urban repair is required to reintroduce the Polypolis; adjusting the scale of existing buildings and repurposing in between spaces. The Noli Map represents the basic condition of urbanism – public, private and figural space. Modernist skyscrapers housing private business in comparison to the space of the Noli, is anti-space, and anti-urban. Civic spaces must be created to enable the architectural stage set to support its local communities and therefore creating an active urban theatre. Holistic urban design tactics that support civic requirements to suit contemporary living include:

1)     The carpet: the street landscape and the stage set and includes the square – a moment of respite.

Where urban infill is required:

2)     Poche spaces, cloisters and carved volumes to support a mix-use district.

3)     The loggia manipulates the perception of time and regains the working public spaces from private enterprise.

The archetype of the various urban repair tactics works as the mediator for readjustment of scale. It is a space that measures, frames, and blurs the threshold of public and private. It represents a rebalance of power, from private enterprise to public space. It is more than just civic streetscape and explores the expression of an urban room. The movement of people through an architectural promenade acts as a spiritual preparation. The threshold and reconnection to city is to be tested as it defines a new public space that influences the local texture of the city and its connection to civic spaces. The urgency to support the ethical city provides an opportunity to explore resources, technologies and materiality that articulate the expression of the urban theatre as well as designing in a holistic manner, suited to the city of Brussels and its inhabitants. This will be explored with the use of stone.

The Street as the Urban Theatre

The Street as the Urban Theatre

The Manhattanplan in the Brussels northern territory, once a financial opportunity for developers to create private business, now oversized monotonous buildings represent capitalism, repressive institutions, and does not relate to the nearby communities. It is the representation of the Anti-City. The zoning of a single use has led to overdevelopment that is difficult to repurpose and maintain. The use of these buildings depletes as soon as constructed and this scale of building is not relevant to today’s urbanism. Adjusting the scale of the buildings and repurposing the in-between spaces can establish civic spaces that support the neighbourhood. A Polypolis is required; removing monofunctional composition and introducing a mix use of urban civic elements to the city that support the wellbeing of local communities, to create an active urban theatre. Space time and motion should be brought together to depict the life on urban streets, including old familiar locations, memories, things both real and unreal, and anecdotal, in other words this is now referred to as the urban theatre.

Urban repair is required to adjust the territory to a human scale and encourage the movement of people back into the district. Creating a corridor like urban theatre between existing landmarks (Pompidou arts centre, modernist church, and the Brussels North Station) can capture the promenade of people and create a route that connects and supports these civic spaces. The Noli Plan becomes the first point of research for the recalibration of a district at a city scale, for its representation of public and private space.

As a civic programme, the performing arts historically and currently create a dynamic space for community engagement and cultural expression. Supporting a mix use district will support social interaction, and the local community. Through the analysis of existing urban theatre projects and the development of a design proposal, this thesis aims to demonstrate the value of urban theatre as a means of enhancing the public realm and creating opportunities for creative expression.

Looking to Louis Kahn’s poche spaces, the urban theatre can be designed to include serve and servant spaces that support a mix-use district, promoting a more inclusive and diverse community. By regaining working public spaces from private enterprise, the urban theatre can help to create a sustainable urban environment. Stone becomes the main technological driver to unify the various strategies of intervention required in the district to support the urban theatre. Its natural quality creates a sense of permanence that defies the Manhattanplan. Its use supports the reaction to the monotonous glass oversized buildings found on site, for its humanistic quality can implement an ode to the architecture of the past that existed within this neighbourhood.

‘Stone as a product of nature beyond the reach of standardization, lends itself to expression of the key moments of human life, transcending the power of time itself.’ – Marmi Italiani

The use of water, stone, earth, and the senses are used tactic fully to re-establish harmony in the modernist territory. By exploring historic precedent to articulating the human experience of the urban realm the urban theatre aims to create a functional and practical approach to the abstract concepts of metaphorical architecture, to reflect social and cultural values of its local community.

Street as The Urban Theatre

Ground Floor Noli Plan 1:250 Elevations of Contemplation square 1:250

Street as The Urban Theatre

Basement - Roof Plans 1:250 at A3


Existing and Proposed Noli Maps 1:1000 at A3

The Street as The Urban Theatre

1:250 AT A1 Section BB

The street as the Urban Theatre

1:250 AT A1 Section AA