On A High Note: UNStudio Designs Graz, Austria’s MuMuTh Music Theater
Credit visionary architect Ben Van Berkel with thinking outside the black box. The UNStudio principal’s commission for the Kunstuniversität Graz in Austria was very basic at the outset: provide an education-minded venue to host concerts ranging from classical to jazz and electronica. However, his MuMuTh music theater and faculty building has proved to be much, much more. Around that minimal nucleus wraps a highly expressive building. He calls the spatial effect kaleidoscopic, adding, “I’m trying to formulate a way for architecture to go from box to blob and back again.”
The interior is vast, 67,000 square feet, and individual spaces are also “very generous,” he says. Although the lobby is truly expansive, the sculpted concrete and plaster forms wafting through it create not only drama but also intimate areas. In contrast to these dynamic forms, materials largely reference classic modernism: wood, chrome, concrete, glass. Color accents, meanwhile, bring stage makeup to mind. “The red comes from lipstick, the soft purple from around the eyes,” he says, explaining his choices for the spiral staircase and the dressing-room walls.
Glass sheathing the building is fritted with colorful shapes derived from musical instruments and notes. (The black-box theater features several layers of lacquered MDF that was CNC-milled in similar patterns.) An external layer of stainless-steel mesh helps to shade the curtain wall, producing a deceptively solid-looking facade during daylight hours yet allowing the building to radiate at night, Van Berkel notes, “like a lamp in the city.” The magic is nothing short of theater.
Photography by Christian Richters and Iwan Baan.
VITRA: CHAIRS (DRESSING ROOM).
AHLERS UND LAMBRECHT: FLOORING (CLASSROOM).
WILDE + SPIETH: CHAIRS (CLASSROOM, REHEARSAL ROOM).
SPORT- UND AKUSTIKBAU: CEILING SYSTEM (LOBBY).
ZUMTOBEL: LINEAR FIXTURES (LOBBY, REHERSAL ROOM).
XAL: RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES.
ZT; PRO ACOUSTIC ENGINEERING: ACOUSTICAL CONSULTANT.
HEIZ-HOFSTÄTTER: MECHANICAL ENGINEER.
SIEMENS BACON: ELECTRICAL ENGINEER.
P&P HOLZBAU: WOODWORK, PLASTERWORK.
PRODINGER METALLBAU; ZEMAN & CO.: METALWORK.
MA-TEC STAHL UND ALUBAU: GLASSWORK, CURTAIN WALL CONTRACTOR.
R. BAYER BETONSTEINWERK: FLOORING CONTRACTOR.
STEINER BAU: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.