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Linnateatteri turned into Turku’s largest accessible theatre

Project

Turun Linnateatteri auditorium renewal (Humalistonkatu 7)

Client

Turun Linnateatteri ry

Project developer

Optiplan Arkkitehdit (Sweco Architects Oy)

Commission

architectural and interior design

Schedule

2018–2019

Significance of the site

Largest accessible theatre in Turku; one of the few theatre restaurants in Finland with an ascending auditorium

Number of spectators

around 350, around 100 accessible seats

Linnateatteri turned into Turku’s largest accessible theatre

In summer 2019, the nationally unique theatre restaurant Linnateatteri moved to the premises of an old cinema in the Turku city centre. Architectural design focused on preserving the spirit of the old building, while achieving a record number of accessible seats.

Linnateatteri is one of Finland’s largest private theatres, both in terms of seats and shows. Furthermore, the entertaining musical shows at Linnateatteri always attract media attention.

“As a theatre restaurant receiving state subsidies, we are a nationally unique private theatre with an established status in Turku,” explains Chairman of the Board Maija Palonheimo from the Turun Linnateatteri association.

In summer 2019, Linnateatteri moved from rental facilities in the Turun Kivipaino building to the old Domino cinema in the city centre. “It is one of Turku’s oldest cinemas, designed by Professor Pekka Pitkänen in 1955–56,” says architectural design group manager Kimmo Köpilä from Sweco. He has long been involved in cooperation with Linnateatteri.

Valuable old cinema turned into a theatre restaurant

The key objective of architectural design was to renew the space, while respecting its history. The nearby Southwest Finland Agricultural Cooperative Building (1927–1928) designed by Alvar Aalto was also taken into account. “Preserving the old cinema and the spirit of its age was an absolute must for us,” Palonheimo says.

The architect had to carefully consider what to change and what to leave untouched. “The fire safety, air conditioning and indoor conditions were improved, but, otherwise, the age of the building is allowed to show,” Köpilä states. Among other features, the glass brick wall of the theatre lobby remained intact.

The architectural and interior design of the site was also guided by the theatre’s operational strategy. Food and drink are an important part of the theatre restaurant experience, and the alcohol serving licence covers the entire auditorium. This means that every spectator must also have a table. Palonheimo adds that the ascending auditorium floor and the high target set for number of seats also created strict boundaries for creative design.

“We looked for inspiration in Oulu’s theatre restaurant Rio, but had no other direct references. For example, an ascending floor is rarely found in theatre restaurants,” Köpilä says. The architect had to come up with ways to fit as many seats as possible, while providing enough room for spectators to be comfortable.

Largest accessible theatre in Turku

Law regulates that all performance venues must contain a certain number of wheelchair places, but Linnateatteri sets itself a higher target. “Accessibility was a hugely important thing for us, since moving easily around the theatre is an essential part of our service concept,” Palonheimo says.

Accessibility had not been a priority in the old cinema. “Luckily, one side of the auditorium has a rather shallow incline, meaning that we were able to create accessible seats for around 100 wheelchair users on all three floor levels,” Köpilä explains. Indeed, Linnateatteri is now Turku’s largest accessible theatre. “The facilities can be easily adapted for different concerts.”

The feedback from customers has been full of praise. “The change is a significant one, and many who have visited the old cinema have truly been wowed by the new space,” Palonheimo says happily. The next step for Linnateatteri is to think of different uses for the spectacular old lobby. “We are also further developing the facilities from the perspective of performers, for example, in terms of accessibility and occupational safety.”

“As a theatre restaurant receiving state subsidies, we are a nationally unique private theatre with an established status in Turku.”
– Maija Palonheimo, Turun Linnateatteri

 

 

 

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