ALA Architects completed the renovation and expansion of the modernist Kuopio City Theatre designed in the 1960s by architects Helmer Stenros and Risto-Veikko Luukkonen.
The design of the original building is based on a monumental rectangular volume lifted four meters above the ground. In the renovation the air conditioning, electrical installations and stage mechanics were completely updated and the stage tower elevated. The old windows, doors and facades were renewed. The public areas were renovated to respectfully reflect their original design with new fixed furniture also following the original design philosophy.
The expansion is a simple white rectangular volume located perpendicularly to the original volume. It is a solid, contemporary addition which continues and complements the old structure with equal quality and permanence. The expansion houses a flat-floored new studio stage with flexible seating and stage mechanics. New spaces have also been provided for the ventilation plant room, dressing rooms, as well as costume manufacturing and storage. The theater sets that were originally produced in-house are nowadays made off-site and the number of visiting productions has also increased remarkably. To cater for today’s logistics needs, loading has been reorganized and a new lift placed between the two stages.
To connect the old and new volumes, the existing public foyer has been extended with a bridge-like structure. The foyer extension forms a canopy over a new outdoor auditorium built between the volumes. The new stage connects to the main stage in a similar straightforward manner that the main stage connects to the stage tower. This solution helps with the optimization of stage logistics and enables combined functionality of the two stages.
The original main entrance serves both the old building and the expansion. Both stages and foyers are located one floor above ground. They are accessed via a dramatic pyramid stair leading up from the ground floor wardrobe to the old foyer and the unobstructed views opening towards the Valkeisenlampi pond through its full height windows. When approaching the theater from the direction of the city center, the only visible alteration is the 4-meter add-on to the original stage tower mandated by theater technical updates. It forms a glowing glass lantern that leaves the distinctive shape of the old tower recognizable while inviting public to the theater.
The old building has a beautiful and timeless material palette consisting of white concrete panels, glass and terracotta tiles. To complement this, the expansion is clad in white fiber concrete panels with a wrinkled, varying surface form, and copper is used for window sashes and the walls of the ventilation plant room. The lion yellow carpet in the foyer also follows the original color scheme.