Albi Grand Theatre

Completed by Atelier Dominique Perrault, the Albi Grand Theatre appears as an outstanding architectural symbol on the outskirts of the historic centre, transforming the texture of the city as well as its cultural influence.

Albi Grand Theatre
In designing this building, Atelier Dominique Perrault has given priority to the presence of the Grand Theatre instead of the cinemas, in order to organize around it a network of public spaces and of cultural facilities.

Along the Alley of Culture, different public spaces follow one another, punctuating a walkway going from the cathedral to the Rochegude big public park. This path begins with the creation of a square at the level of the Sibille Boulevard, then arrives on the theatre place, and continues on the cinemas place in front of the Athanor, to finally open onto the public garden.

That’s the idea of an “urban walkway” animated by the succession, the juxtaposition and the interaction of several cultural buildings.

Albi Grand Theatre, Albi, France
Dominique Perrault Architecture, Albi Grand Theatre, Albi, France. Top: photo © Georges Fessy / DPA / Adagp. Above: photo © Vincent Boutin / DPA / Adagp
The preserved Athanor building is modified to create the entrance of the cinemas. It becomes the visible part of this “iceberg”, offering a big lobby, with some shops and a café at the square level. All the screening rooms are located in the basements. So the base of the theatre place is totally occupied by the cinematographic complex. This layout allows to liberate all the public space and to open it generously to the urban activity and the population.
The very simple geometry of the theatre allows a setting up along the Général de Gaulle Avenue, in an attempt of urban continuity and proximity with the multimedia library, generating two more or less triangular places on the side of the “cultural alley”. Those two public spaces, new in this urban infrastructure, are laid around the theatre: one is opened towards the historic centre and the other towards the neighbourhood.
  Dominique Perrault Architecture, Albi Grand Theatre, Albi, France
Dominique Perrault Architecture, Albi Grand Theatre, Albi, France. Photo © Vincent Boutin / DPA / Adagp
The only opening on the theatre place is fully glazed like a big window towards the city, welcoming all the lobbies, the galleries, the balconies and the big auditorium.
The building is made of concrete, covered with bricks. This material is used for the outside as much as the inside, for the floors as much as the walls and the ceilings, to create a mono material architecture.
To the solidity of the brick, the architects oppose a smooth and lightweight cover, which dresses up the prism of the theatre. This cover of metal mesh, red copper coloured, which doesn’t rust, takes on the verticality of the building on two sides, and takes away from it on the other sides, to open like a big drop cloth on the theatre place and the cinemas one.
The curves and counter curves required for this static mesh create a free, happy and lyric architecture. It is also a metaphor of the drop cloth or the evocation of an opera stage design. This metallic woven skin, as a lace, protects the functions of the theatre without separating them from the functions of the city. It filters the light and breaks the wind and the rain.

Albi Grand Theatre, Albi, France
Program: theatre and cinemas
Architects: Dominique Perrault Architecture
Local architects: Christian Astruc Architects
Engineering: VP Green (structure), ETCO (mechanical engineering), RPO (project management), Changement à vue (scenograph), Jean-Paul Lamoureux (acoustics)
Client: Albi Town Council
Area: Grand Theatre 10,200 sqm, Cinemas 7,800 sqm
Completion: 2014

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