Historic Theater Gets Contemporary Makeover With GKD Metal Fabrics

March 10, 2015

Project: Victoria Theater and Concert Hall (VTCH)

Location: Singapore

Architect: W Architects in collaboration with Arup Ltd., London

Building Type: Public Buildings and Arts

GKD Metal Fabrics Product: Baltic and Omega 1520

With the objective of developing the city into a global center of art and culture, Singapore is investing in its historical city center with extensive renovation and modernization work. As the most important part of this initiative, the historic Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall (VTCH) in the so-called Civic District underwent a four-year modernization process under the leadership of W Architects in collaboration with Arup Ltd., London. Securing the latest technical standards and subtly combining old and new were the key requirements of the renovation process for the grand dame of the performing arts. Metal fabric from GKD – GEBR. KUFFERATH AG (GKD) in Düren allows contemporary functionality to be combined with high-grade architecture in large-scale applications here.

The Memorial Hall was erected in 1905 to honor Queen Victoria in the direct neighborhood of the City Hall, itself built on the banks of the Singapore River in 1862. Four years later, in 1909, culture made its appearance and ultimately led to today’s building complex becoming a cultural center. The City Hall was transformed into a theater and thereby paved the way for the early days of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, which found its new home in the former Memorial Hall at the end of the 1970s. Alongside the Symphony Orchestra, today’s 13,800 square meter cultural center is also used by numerous other groups and ranks among the city’s most important theaters and concert halls.

To honor and respect the building’s historical significance, the Victorian façade was to remain fully intact during the four-year renovation period. Inside the building, however, numerous changes were needed to adapt both the theater and concert hall to modern requirements and tastes. Two of the key objectives here were to ensure more flexible usability and upgrade the technical equipment to modern standards. To improve acoustics and stage visibility, the number of seats in the theater was also reduced from 900 to just 614. As they were keen to retain the old charm of the cultural landmark, those in charge at W Architects and Arup placed great emphasis on integrating elements of the old theater into the new facility’s modern interior design. For example, the wooden backrests of the old theater seats were reworked and creatively re-used as wall and ceiling cladding. Thanks to their square shape and symmetrical arrangement, the backrests, some of which still bear visible seating numbers, transform the office area on the first floor into a huge, seemingly floating Rubik’s Cube when viewed from the foyer.

Warm shades of gold and red seating upholstery lend the theater’s interior a luxurious flair. The cladding of the technical infrastructure along the ceiling of the theater also makes a key contribution in this regard. Here, the architects selected a three-dimensional construction created from 350 square meters of GKD’s “Omega 1520” stainless steel fabric. Individually woven panels of varying length form three flowing waves from the back of the theater toward the stage. The textile look and feel of the woven material allows all the technical equipment fitted near the ceiling to be concealed behind these large rolling waves of shimmering texture without affecting the acoustics in the room. Panels of up to 19 meters in length and 1.30 meters 3 in width are arranged and attached in parallel using the Fusiomesh fitting technique developed by GKD. The coated weft wire lends the woven panels their warm golden shimmer and thereby transforms the ceiling construction into a truly eye-catching design feature.

When cladding the parapets, the architects also relied on the visual and functional benefits of the metal fabric from Germany both in the theater and concert hall. A total of 48 panels of Omega 1520 provide reliable fall guard protection from the balcony, while also acting as a room-dividing element between the ground level seating areas. The weft wire, which is coated in Venezia Gold, provides a visual link to the color of the ceiling cladding. The stainless steel fabric was also used to perform the same function in the concert hall, although without the golden coloring. Instead, the stainless steel is left in its natural state here, underlining the overall cooler ambience of this venue that is dominated by white. A total of 150 square meters of Omega 1520 metal fabric, comprising panels of approximately 1 meter in length and 1.50 meters in width, provide reliable fall protection for those guests sitting on the balcony without compromising their view of the stage. According to the architects’ wishes a frame-style clamping mechanism was used to attach the individual panels in a virtually invisible fashion.

The woven texture used to encase the freestanding spiral staircase in the foyer of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is a real eye-catcher that once again underlines the multifunctional versatility of this material. Some 170 square meters of “Baltic” metal fabric wrap around the spiral staircase to create an attractive fall guard protection up to the first floor. Just like the ceiling panels in the theater, the metal fabric used to encapsulate the staircase was also attached using the Fusiomesh technique. In addition, 411.50 meter long and 0.66 meter wide cylindrical metal fabric panels are joined together to create a seamless visual extension of the spiral staircase from the first floor to two further upper floors.

GKD metal fabrics are therefore a prominent feature that plays a key part in shaping the redesigned interior of the historic cultural landmark in three different fields of application, while also lending the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall its dazzling new appearance.