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Temporary Summer Auditorium Haag

alias Sommertheater Haag
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)2000 | Opening night
Opening night took place at 13th July of 2000, with the performance by Carlo Goldoni Der Diener zweier Herren (Servant of Two Masters).



Haag is a small town of medieval origins in Lower Austria. Most of its buildings date from before the twentieth century and have curious roofs that are very steeply sloped to shed the snow that frequently falls on them. In small towns in cold climates, buildings with this type of roof tend to be separate from each other so as to avoid the formation of roof valleys where the weight of the snow might build up to dangerous levels. Again, the geometric complexity of these roofs requires that the buildings have quite regular floor plans. In sum, free space in Haag’s urban fabric is revealed as the negative side of a mass constructed on the basis of individualised, more or less regular objects that, however, lack contact and alignment. Space then becomes an irregular, fragmentary and somewhat quaint form of emptiness full of pleats and corners. 

The main square of Haag faithfully reproduces this pattern. Its perimeter is pronouncedly outlined, defined by the historic facades of the buildings that converge there, among which are the city council and the church. Apart from these two buildings and one or two others, and despite their generally good state of repair, they tend to be unoccupied today. Until recently, the poor standard of public lighting and indiscriminate presence of the private vehicle only increased the disorderliness and narrowness of the spaces. The square only attained the splendour and dignity of a privileged place in the summer season when it traditionally houses a cycle of open-air theatre.

In fact, even though its population is just over 5,000 inhabitants, Haag is a town with a long and notable theatre tradition. In 2,000 the council decided to respond to this local enthusiasm by constructing a stage and tiered seating that could be installed in the main square in the summer. However, with the success of this first summer theatre season, it was then hoped to extend the temporary benefits of the initiative to the rest of the year and, making the most of the occasion, it was decided to give the square a complete overhaul. The aim of this intervention, which cost a total of almost four million euros, was twofold. As a first and immediate requisite, the uses of the square had to be properly organised. It was therefore to be cleared of obstacles and impediments so that it could function as a flexible venue for special events such as the theatre cycle. Second, once the space was put into order, the whole area had to take on the dignity and presence that befit a main square.

With a seating capacity for six hundred spectators, the temporary theatre is a structure made of wood interlocked with crossed metal braces. It can be assembled and dismantled quickly and easily without leaving any mark on the square. It consists of a large projecting roof that shelters a raised platform of seating, which is supported by two parallel porticos. The platform, in turn, partially covers a stalls area that rests on the firm base of the square. In summer, the theatre is set up in the square’s centre ground, occupying a good part of its surface. 

During the rest of the year, however, the square opens out in a continuous multipurpose empty space that has been freed of cars and any unevenness. Its surface, completely paved in grey stone is only interrupted by the subtle tracings of a network of lines marked in white marble. Far from being at right angles, the lines of this network take irregular and apparently capricious directions. In fact, however, when observed from one edge of the square they create an optical illusion. From this perspective, the lines of the network seem to be perfectly orthogonal and offer an almost axonometric projection of the ground of the square. The observer’s eye, tricked by the absence of vanishing points in the lines of the pavement, sees the square as an orderly space that is much bigger that it is in reality.. At night, the lighting of the facades highlights their historic value and frees the square of light posts, while bathing it in indirect light that gives an effect of depth while emphasising its three-dimensional perception.

The town’s traditional passion for the scenic arts has been rewarded by the presence of a facility that enjoys wide-ranging popular acceptance. Each summer, when the building makes its appearance, it takes pride of place in Haag’s urban scene and radically transforms its physiognomy. The periodicity of the apparition means that the emptiness of the square disappears and appears again with the facility of stage sets in the different scenes of a play. The spectacular structure of the platform dramatically tilts over the stage, displaying a categorical contemporaneity that strikes an effective contrast with the chorus of traditional buildings that are its backdrop. With this ephemeral, periodical spectacle, the theatre is representing itself. 

Nonetheless, the script of the representation is based on the reality of Haag’s urban morphology. The appearance of the theatre, as the star turn of the square, is a perfect response to its compositional logic, which is characterised, as remarked above, by the more-or-less spontaneous coming together of a series of individual and unorganised bodies over the formless emptiness, which is its opposite. When summer comes to an end and the theatre disappears, emptiness is again reasserted in the square. Then, the optical illusion of its renovated paving, which plays with fiction and reality, is a reminder that the show will go on. 

Written by architect David Bravo Bordas.

Published in : http://www.publicspace.org/en/projects/e016-haag-007


Tags: Contemporary era


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