LOCATION Udine, Italia
YEAR 1974
THEME Architecture, Cultural spaces, Theatre
STATUS Competition
DESIGNERS Antonio Monestiroli, Paolo Rizzatto

The subject of theater, in recent history, lacks references to take into account: the most beautiful theaters are still the ancient theaters. The first issue to be addressed is the definition of the general characters of this building, through the analysis of theaters in history and reflection on the general meaning of this cultural activity. The Greek theater establishes the theatrical place between the cavea and the surrounding nature. A viewpoint system of theatrical action that has nature as its backdrop. Nature itself becomes the context of men’s lives. The Roman theater profoundly changes this relationship. The theatrical place is built on the relationship between the cavea and a fixed scene, almost always “the front of an imaginary palace” as Vitruvius says.

The building is closed in relation to the surrounding nature, free from any obligatory geographical location, an autonomous artifact that is built at the most favorable point of all the foundation cities. Two hundred years pass between the theater of Epidaurus and the theater of Marcellus, and the theater is freed from two constraints: the first cultural (the relationship with nature) and the second constructive (the slope of the land). After the Roman theater there is no type that renews it until the Baroque theater or Italian theater; until the idea of the theater as a performance machine. Between these two extremes are Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico, which can be considered the last fixed-scene theater, and the Teatro Farnese in Parma, which is the first movable-scene theater. However, in the Renaissance an important fact happens for the theater and its culture: there is an awareness of urban theatricality or the city as the theater of men’s lives. Serlio builds the dramatic, comic and satirical scenes of which the first two are urban: the first built with monumental palaces and the second with civilian dwellings. The third, the satirical scene, is built with depictions of nature. This experience is important for the theater but also for the architecture of the city. One learns to read the city as a system of representation. And the city itself, with its architectural forms, an integral, fixed formal context of the performance that will take place in its squares. And the architecture of the square is the fixed scene to which every kind of performance refers. Bramante’s design for the Belvedere is exemplary: a place that contains in its architecture its theatricality. Finally, the Italian-style theater, in which a curtain divides the theater into two clearly distinct parts: one on this side and one on the other side of it, establishing a magical relationship between the place of spectators and the place of theatrical machines. This is the theater that more than the others is built on its specific function: the act and techniques of performance. One half of it is entrusted to the imagination. Its form refers to something that is to take place and will only complete it during its operation. Among these different forms of theater, fixed-scene theater is the one that most represents its general function. With it we built a formal system that became the constant reference for each subsequent staging. On this concept we defined the general idea of our theater of which we did not immediately find a suitable form. The choice was to build a place through the relationship of several fixed scenes. This is the place defined by architecture, within this place the maximum freedom of scenic arrangement allows all kinds of performances. The call for proposals called for two theaters, a large one (1,000 seats) and a small one (300 seats), a space in which different types of performances were possible, and a number of rooms for educational activities. The only modern theater that partially meets these requirements is Mies van der Rohe’s Mannheim Theater: two opposing theaters are built in a large hall. The initial idea thus took shape: two opposing theaters within a single space, in which one was scene to the other. The larger theater contains the smaller one and is built from a building body that can contain all the service functions required by the announcement. The result is one large covered space (it can be considered a covered court) that is accessed from two narrow streets and can be set up in a variety of ways. The most difficult issue is to be addressed: to construct the architecture of the two fixed scenes. The large theater is served by overlapping distribution galleries that can be used as loggias by spectators during the performance. The small theater is bordered by five floors of boxes or simple observation places. However, these elements, functionally assumed, are not sufficient to construct a fixed scene. The scene, in classical theater, always has a paradigmatic value. Similarly, we have tried, for the construction of the two opposing facades, to represent the two simple forms in which an architectural front can be constructed: with beams and pillars, or with a windowed wall. Here one should open a discussion about language in architecture, the process of reducing elements to their essential characters, the relationship between the column and the pillar, etc. I think it can be said that the trilithic system and the window wall are two simple elements of language. Until now I have always used only these two elements, often in a poor and schematic way, while knowing that they allow the construction of scores of great richness and variety. In the case of Udine we used a single thin, unbroken iron pillar to establish the unity of the front. For the front of the small theater we found confirmation in a drawing by De Chirico. The window has such a magical aspect in this drawing that we could not do without this reference. The spectacle is everything that happens outside the window. At each window two people look out, the same people looking out are a form of spectacle.


Massimo Ferrari (edit by) Antonio Monestiroli Opere, progetti e studi di architettura Electa Milan 2001

Francesco Moschini (edit by) Antonio Monestiroli Progetti 1967-1987  Edizioni Kappa Rome 1988