Barras Community Theatre
“[Theatres[ should be the new Town Squares, not monasteries” Vasif Kortun
Theatres are traditionally places for the congregation of people for social and cultural activities and are intended to be used by all. Despite this, historically they have been viewed as ‘middle class’ environments. The grand architecture of many cultural buildings, including Glasgow’s existing theatres, creates an exclusive and devisive environment. The rigidity and grandeur created by fixed seating arrangements, separate front and back of house, and extensive and lavish decoration, forms an unintentional barrier to those from more deprived areas, who are subsequently the least likely to attend cultural events.
In Scotland, theatre is often politically motivated with the famous example of “The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil” significantly impacting Scotland’s theatrical history. This play was toured around the whole country , being performed in church, school and village halls, bringing political conversation and culture directly to the communities it concerned and removing the architectural ‘barrier’.
As a reaction to these two areas of research, I have designed a building which acts as an open, accessible and flexible space for the community of Calton which can facilitate theatrical performance, creative learning and political discussion.
The ground floor of the building acts as a room for the city, with meandering movement and varied use of the space encouraged by the porous structure. The main performance hall is not defined by fixed seating and so provides flexibility in terms of programme and users. It can be opened into the central atrium which acts as the heart of the building, allowing for further flexibility and porosity in both programme and structure.
Layers of structure create extended thresholds which should encourage people to move through and explore the buildings possibilities. Visual connection to the main spaces from the atrium will create a lively and cohesive building which puts a focus on the central space, in itself a performance area. The lightness of the structure and visual connectivity from every room, removes the barrier found in traditional theatres, taking away the secrecy and exclusive feeling of a cultural space. Connectivity and inclusivity are encouraged through programme and architectonics.
Removing the cultural and ‘class’ barrier between communities such as Calton and cultural experiences is the main aim of this thesis. Creating a space for people to learn, create, exhibit, perform and discuss all within one space will promote sharing of knowledge and understanding, which I believe is the main benefit of attending cultural events. I hope to create a building that through structure and programme will democratise the theatre and empower the community through performance, discussion and cultural engagement.