Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 38

better collaboration between architect
and consultant than here in Germany?

" Selecting a
famous architect
or 'Starchitect'
does not
guarantee
success. Frank
Lloyd Wright
was one of the
most acclaimed
architects of the
20th century but
his only theatre,
the Kalita
Humphreys
in Dallas, is a
disaster. "

The influence held by a theatre consultant depends on
the team or practice, on the individual,
and the context. Some teams or practices
take a quite narrow approach to the role
of the theatre consultant looking at only
one aspect of the work, often the technologies. Other teams take a broader more
holistic view looking at all aspects of the
project, including the auditorium, public
spaces, business planning, and city context, as well as the technologies.
There are many knowledgable, strong
individuals in the consulting world who
have developed specific interests or areas
of expertise and may espouse a particular
design philosophy. Every project is different and the context differs. Design teams
have become ever larger and more complex, often to the detriment of a project.
Some design teams come together well
and are successful at developing innovative, creative ideas. Other teams have
difficulties with clashes of ego or personalities. The client needs to be aware of
this in assembling a team for their project.
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You did not have many projects in
Continental Europe and especially in Germany, if I am correct. What are
the reasons for this?
BTR:

Germany
and
Central
Europe has a very well developed design and construction industry
with standards, procedures, and methodologies that can wrap a project (not just
theatres) in an overwhelming cloak of
studies, analysis, and bureaucracy. It is no
coincidence that almost every significant
project in Germany is either behind schedule, over budget, or both. Before a project
commences, there is a need for innumerable studies and reports on economics, environment, viability, planning regulations,
etc. The brief for a new building in Central
Europe will be interminable and weigh
many kilos. Not being familiar with these
procedures, this was difficult for us to
handle.
By contrast, many countries have significantly more freedom with a need for
minimal studies. In the Middle East or
Asia, the brief may simply say, We need
a theatre of 2,000 seats. There are risks
in such an unregulated environment, but
the project will probably be completed
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in half or one third of the time needed
in Central Europe, or the project will be
completed before the teams in Germany
have finished reading the brief. This situation has developed over the years, as public building authorities in Central Europe
were reduced and replaced by private
consultants who do not take responsibility. Now the projects become bigger and
more expensive and the communities get
frightened.
You have been invited to discussions about big theatre projects in
Germany, in Dusseldorf and also
Frankfurt. What are your observations
from outside about the decision making
and way of planning new theatres or renovations here?
BTR:

My previous answer talked
about process-the danger
in Germany of studying everything to
death before a project proceeds. This is
often needed to keep funders and government happy but serves little practical

38 | THEATRE DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY | SPRING 2021

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purpose.
But there is a further danger that
these interminable processes will stifle
creativity and innovation. Germany has
some of the most exciting and innovative theatres of the past 70 years. Berlin
Philharmonie, MiR in Gelsenkirchen,
Boulez Saal in Berlin, etc. The only really
interesting modern project in Germany
is, to my mind, the Boulez Saal which,
although government-funded, was built
by a Stiftung (foundation) outside of
the normal heavy hand of government
processes.
Yes, this was really an exception,
also because the architect Frank
Gehry and the acoustician Yasuhia Toyota
offered their service for small fees. This
brings us to your book, Modern Theatres.
The theatres you named are included in
it, but you also said that the book should
not only highlight the best theatres of the
world, but also the worst-in terms of
practical use. How did you get the idea to
write a book about good and bad theatre
construction?
BTR:

There was no one, overriding inspiration, but rather a
number of factors. Edwin Sachs and his
work were important. Being asked to
chair the editorial board for the
International Theatre Engineering and
Architecture Conference in 2018 got me
thinking, and my imminent retirement
from full-time consulting work meant I
probably had the time to create a book.
One hundred and twenty years ago,
Edwin Sachs produced three volumes on
theatre buildings across Europe. This
eminent Victorian, who at various times
in his career performed the roles of architect, stagehand, engineer, and fireman,
wrote the classic work Modern Theatres
and Opera Houses, completed in 1898
when he was just 28 years old. Published
in the earliest days of photography, the
book contains a few black-and-white photographs. Its strengths are the detailed
drawings of European opera houses and
theatres. It also reproduces many of the
European fire codes that then applied to
theatres while a fascinating section lists
all the theatres damaged or destroyed by
fire in the 19th century. During this period
of gas and candle lighting, the average
theatre was destroyed by fire every 12
years. Many other books have been published on the historic opera houses and
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