Henning Larsen Architects, working in partnership with the Dutch Van der Berg Groep, have won first prize in the competition to design a new Theater and Zoo entrance in Emmen, The Netherlands. The 16,000 square meter facility will provide flexible exhibition and conference spaces with two performance stages. The ingenious geometric forms of the structure work with the surrounding landscape and natural environment to create an energy-efficient space that promises to provide a dramatic entrance to the 10-hectare wildlife park.

Emmen Theater, Henning Larsen Architecture, Emmen Zoo, Sustainable Architecture, Architecture Competition

Henning Larsen’s winning design enables a wide variety of uses while enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of the New Emmen Theater. The 1,150 capacity theater will be composed of several levels beneath its flowing, dome-like roof, which is itself designed to reflect the arc of an animal’s spine. Within the heater floating walls allow for rooms to be reconfigured as needed, ensuring that spaces are always appropriate to the events they host, and that resources are not wasted on maintaining climate control in unused spaces.

The building’s windows and facades point to an emphasis on efficiency as well. Large windows along the north facade and small windows along the southern expanse respond to the available light and heat, while skylights in the building’s hallways suffuse the interior with natural light.

A large green space is nestled within a bowl-shaped dip in the theater’s roof-line, which is designed to serve as a hidden urban oasis and a thoroughly public meeting space in the ilk of a town square. Large overhangs emerging from the structure’s frame keep the area cool and shaded for public enjoyment during warm sunny days. During rainfall, the entire green space will become a valuable site for rainwater collection, helping to keep the building cool while feeding the rainwater to fountains, ponds and canals on the site of the Essen Theater and Zoo.

Beyond the sustainable and innovative scope of the design, Henning Larsen were keen to create a visual and conceptual bridge between the gated nature of the wildlife park and the surrounding urban environment. The architects describe the project: “[v]iewed from the city, it opens up as a magic window towards the natural wildlife in the zoo – while the city is staged as a large urban universe viewed from the zoo.” The international competition included entries from architecture firms MVRDV and Mecanoo. The inauguration of this wildly creative Theater and Zoo Entrance is planned for 2015.

+ Henning Larsen Architects