Project Name: National Dance Theater
Practice: ZDA – Zoboki Design And Architecture
Firm Location: Hungary, Budapest, Andrásy út 45
Completion year: 2019
Gross Built up Area: 8000 m2
Project Location: Budapest, Hungary
Lead Architects: Gábor Zoboki, Balázs Orlovits, András Lente
Design Team: Johanna Jánossy, Miklós Heppes, Attila Fekete, Valéria Szabó
Clients: Millenáris Tudományos Kulturális Nonprofit Kft., National Dance Theater
Engineering: Andor Fürjes, Zsuzsa Tompai, Zoltán Bencze, Bencze Kólya, László Berzétei, László Lukács, János Sápi, Bendegúz Csuba
Photo Credits: Zsolt Hlinka, Dániel Dömölky, András Lente
(“Text as submitted by Architect”)
Hungarian National Dance Theatre, Budapest
In an old industrial building that was once a flourishing hub for world-famous inventions, Hungarian dance has found a new home. The former Ganz factory, which had its heyday at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, was not just a symbol of Hungarian industry, but also a cradle for a generation of Hungarian scientists who lent extraordinary creative impetus to the world. The factory hall, now home to the National Dance Theatre, hosted the creative endeavours of internationally renowned engineers and scientists throughout the second half of the 19th century, and several defining inventions such as the transformer and the dynamo were conceived there. The new building is thus a forum where science and culture meet, where – reflecting the spirit of the place – experimental genres, folk dance based on exceptionally rich folklore, contemporary dance, as well as classical ballet, are all given a stage. At the same time, the building is not only a cultural and artistic space, but also a meeting point and community venue in one of the regenerated parks of the Hungarian capital.
Past and future, spirit and creativity – in one place
The previous home of the National Dance Theatre, which embraces numerous styles of Hungarian dance, was a monastery converted into a theatre that provided limited technical possibilities for presenting a broad repertoire of dance genres. The site chosen for the new building was an industrial hall in one of the capital’s parks, which in the 19th century was one of the buildings of the internationally renowned Ganz factory. The factory was closed during the change of regime, then transformed into a public park, and the industrial buildings were converted into exhibition and studio spaces. Over time the popular park lost some of its earlier lustre, and so in recent years efforts have been made to re-establish it as a vibrant meeting place by installing new functions there.
Cultural and community space, in an industrial listed building
When designing the new theatre building, the architects had a dual objective: to emphasise the virtues of the existing industrial listed building, and to transform the space to meet the diverse current and future needs of the dance profession. A new wing and facade was added to the previously closed-off industrial hall, which connects it to the park, open and inviting. The see-through lobby is part of both the park and the theatre: it serves not only to receive visitors but is also a vibrant community and cultural space where art, human interaction and recreation are present simultaneously. The lobby, which is open to visitors of the park and includes a café, can also be used for staging smaller dance productions, with the staircase serving as a makeshift auditorium.
Multifunctional theatre spaces
The industrial hall can be thought of as a three-nave cathedral, the central element of which is a large hall for 368 people converted into a multifunctional theatre space. The stage area, equipped with modern theatre technology, can be adapted to the broad repertoire of the dance profession, to its current and future needs, but other events such as concerts and gala dinners can also be held in it. The detachable, mobile chair system of the auditorium, which can be moved to the side if necessary, also serves this purpose.
The small hall suspended over the lobby is a space for experimentation, which also functions as a theatre for staging a variety of genres. By moving the mobile curtain system, the acoustic environment can also be changed, making the sound of the room sharper or duller. The designers sought to create a unified space where the audience can feel that it is almost a physical part of the performance.
A sound studio has also been set up in the building to expand the artistic potential of the dance productions, and there are also two large rehearsal rooms in the dance theatre, one of which can be further divided using mobile walls.