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Magma reveals sand dune-like Sharjah theatre overhaul

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Magma, the architects behind the temporary London 2012 Olympic shooting venue, has completed the conversion of the Masrah Al Qasba theatre in Sharjah

The 300-seat scheme is the Berlin-based practice’s first project in the United Arab Emirates and features ceilings and walls covered with an undulating skin ‘evoking recollections of the landscapes of Sharjah’.

The sand dune-like surfaces are created from a polyamide and spandex textile stretched over an aluminium substructure.

Telescopic rods beneath push out the expandable fabric to form ‘hills and valleys’ with the air conditioning, sound equipment, light fittings, electrical wiring and acoustic insulation concealed behind the porous fabric surface.

According to the practice, spot lights and ventilation outlets and intakes have been recessed in ceiling joints.

Magma's conversion of the Masrah Al Qasba theatre in Sharjah

Source: Torsten Seidel

Magma’s conversion of the Masrah Al Qasba theatre in Sharjah

The architect’s view

The client brief was to create a theatre design equally rooted in the nature and history of the Emirate of Sharjah as embracing its cultural future. The design for the new Al Qasba conversion is based on a subtle atmospheric amalgamation of everyday life of the past and contemporary world of theatre. In the days of nomadic life news was transmitted through oral narrative in the open-air of the nocturnal desert landscape. The design of the Al Qasba auditorium refers to the nature of Sharjah as inspiration and suggests an inverted, fully enclosing scenographic landscape. Undulating surfaces with light strips on fold lines scatter across the ceiling evoking images of evening sun streaking sand dunes. Visitors entering the auditorium disconnect from everyday life to immerse into the surprising and striking space of the staged narrative in the new Masrah Al Qasba Theater.
Past and present are also mirrored in the choice of materials for the project. The interior skin is created out of textile, a traditional building material in the region, albeit in a high tech contemporary make. The textile wraps the walls and ceiling of the 300 seat auditorium space in a continuous smooth surface. Lights on fold lines gently accentuate the double curvature shapes. The design enables illuminating the space without blinding the visitors with lights. Placed on the inclined ceiling surfaces facing the stage the auditorium lights remain invisible from the spectator seats. Additional spotlights installed in the cracks in the surface can be switched off to create a softly dimmed illumination for lectures and talks. We also designed and refitted the theatre lobby and adjoining rooms. A completely white space with soft light in changing colors invites visitors to meet and linger and enhances anticipation of the theatre visit.


Project data:

Client: Al Qasba Development Authority
Design team: magma architecture - Martin Ostermann, Lena Kleinheinz, Hendrik Bohle, Philipp Mecke, Anke Noske, Carlos Lara
Mechanical & Electrical Engineering: Sarraj SMEP Engineering Consultants
Acoustics: Akustik Ingenieurbüro Moll
Fabric and Aluminium Construction: Ellermann GmbH, Rietberg, Germany
Main Contractor: Foyer, AC, Electrical Elements; Fitout Décor, Sharjah, UAE
Total area of conversion: 820 m²
Auditorium no of seats: 300
Fabric: My Tx Stretch Color


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