Copy + Paste
OMA’s Cardiff house is designed, through its spatially liberatory volumes, to make distinct the public and private programmatic needs of a theater, but significantly falters in its responsibility to be specific to its site; concept and context remain divorced, reducing concept to an exportable, globalized product. The inability to contextualize its concept is reaffirmed through drawings that lack a ground, models that lack their neighbors, and forms that lack scale. The divided back of house services and the public-facing theater spaces lack understanding of how, and where you enter this container, which only hinders the highly technical and ingenious organization of a theater. It proposes a continuous public plane through open floor plans that proceeds to a large open chamber then continues and turns on itself in section to create an intimate auditorium that is surrounded by a series of smaller enveloping spaces. The material language and delineated programs ranging from the foyer, programs of production, offices, practice rooms, workshops, stage, and public simulation all critically redefine the theater typology. The architecture, however, remains internal, unable or unwilling to adapt its volumetric and programmatic logic to its context, ultimately rendering it a sculptural trophy that can be copied and pasted to many other competitions.
Between factory and auditorium, OMA’s failure to contextualize consistently avoids the responsibility of tailoring a competition project to a specific context. As a business strategy, it conserves resources and time needed for the numerous competitions that OMA participates in. While this project gives important separation in its program which includes the entire apparatus of production [an architecture that allows the public to confront opera] the auditorium is surrounded by a series of enveloping spaces, from public volumes that start at what is seemingly the entrance and relates to what we can assume is the street level is accessible through different levels on its plan. This linear and pragmatic inhabitation is in contrast to the sectional profile which sharply focuses on the aesthetic dimension of the looping structure, which derives its quality from shape and variations for auditorium use. It is also important to investigate the defined materials [luxurious materials: brushed aluminum, dark wood, leather chairs, and acoustic panels of non-reflective glass] as a means to highlight the building and further take advantage of the purity of the design concept as a way to publicize the concept and convince the public and judges of the validity of such a bold concept in spite of refusing to converse with the urban fabric. The architect claims the orientation as east-west across the longest dimension of the site, closer to the sea, and coincides with the office blocks to establish a [natural relationship while the auditorium shell is now exposed in the direct axis of Bute Avenue, marking its uniqueness through its small scale] leaving the drawings and models to highly depend on the text. Given its limited production for a competition entry, the few drawings provided should properly represent the project and the contextual references allegedly inspired throughout the design. If the drawings and photographs of models do not provide context, it becomes difficult to believe integration of context was important for the project.
The Opera house, unfortified at first sight, maintains the ground by utilizing a large cube to hide all its necessary functions. These functions typical for the back of the house are organized differently and are cladded in a unique material that is evidence of a minimized structure. The architecture uses tools to hide the cube during different events [a sliding steel wall emerges from the ground at the beginning of each performance to create a compact social space] which reveals that this cube is not of high importance for its exterior qualities and it does not want to waste real estate [Instead of proliferating shapelessly across the site, the compactness of the building permits precise urbanism] therefore the small footprint can provide leverage for a better method in contextualizing its concept. A large area of the site is left undesigned [free to be landscaped] and the entire profile of the building reveals itself only upon arrival on the Plaza front. Instead, the plaza and landscape should be as critical in its highly abstract approach by visualizing the performances the firm plans on directing. This can be done by digging the large cube mass in a terraced landscape which starts to focus on how the building contains a relationship with the site and most importantly its access. The architects already envision events such as [sponsored open-air performances, a door opens directly to the side stage, a large rehearsal studio has direct access] that need to be shown, not only through text, but through illustration.