| THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FLOATING
The largest stage in Europe
In early summer 2001 the Danish Ministry of Culture invited submissions
to an international competition for architects to design a new playhouse
for the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen – in an area of the harbour called
Kvæsthusbroen, where the ferries to and from Oslo and Bornholm currently
dock. It is quite unique to Copenhagen, and a powerful and charming
sight, that two huge ships sail straight into the heart of an age-old
city. Now the ferries will lie at anchor elsewhere, and in their place
a theatre will be built. How can we prevent killing off the harbour
when the dynamic forces that work there and keep it alive are constantly
being eliminated? When all the cranes and lorries and ferries have
vanished, and all we have left is the new library and block upon block
of glass edifices, then the harbour will be dead. There will be no
vibrancy, and no interaction with the water, which will lose its significance
and be transformed into pure decoration.
Remedy the errors of the past, build for the present and anticipate
No new theatre has been built in Copenhagen since Det Ny Teater
was erected in 1908. Since then there has been colossal development
in theatre procedures. Not least during the 1930s when modern theatre
was defined, and again in the 1980s when computerisation of technical
systems to run a production was introduced in most theatres. But the
question of technical up-dating is the easiest of all. The difficult
question is: what kind of theatre does Danish theatre in general and
the Royal Theatre in particular need?
We met in secret one evening, at Dr.Dante’s new offices in the centre
of Copenhagen, a large and diversified group: production designers,
directors, technicians, stage crew, engineers and architects. I had
sent them all an invitation, which included this question: We have
such a proud architectural tradition in Denmark, and so many talented
architects, so why have we got so many boring buildings?
In the course of a series of meetings we, theatre professionals,
put together all our experience of working in theatre buildings. We
then listed everything we could hope for from a modern theatre. The
architects listened and listened and asked question after question.
But it was not until all the material had been gone through in meticulous
detail that the first line was committed to paper.
PLOT designed a floating theatre that, besides a number of financial
advantages, had two crucial benefits: 1) the theatre would not be
party to killing off the vibrancy of the harbour, but on the contrary
would play a part in keeping it alive; 2) at one stroke the Royal
Theatre would become a theatre for the whole nation, as it could be
moved around the country; for example, to Århus for the annual arts
In terms of the actual auditoria, we are 100% convinced that the Royal
Theatre has more need for a building that offers a challenge to the
artists who work in it, than for a large palace providing a grand
backdrop for their lofty work.
Inside the theatre itself, all our aspirations resulted in the design
of one large stage, which is both a traditional proscenium stage and
at the same time flexible so that the opening could be up to 20 metres
high and 40 metres wide, and thus the largest stage in Europe. A maximum
stage depth of 90 metres means that in practise a motorcycle or a
horse could be ridden directly towards the audience at a reasonably
The smaller stage is equipped with an outer wall that can be opened,
so that the harbour and water can be used as part of the set. The
harbour and water can even be drawn into the stage picture itself
if so desired – a sea battle, for example.
If this outer door and the back wall of the large stage are opened
at the same time, the audience in the large auditorium can witness
a stage depth of 3-4 km, depending on visibility. A bonfire on the
Swedish coast can be part of the production; actors can arrive by
boat; the audience can see mermaids and sunsets and shipwrecks.
Details of all these possibilities, and much more, are to be found
on this website.