PAC Performing Arts Center Kristiansand international architecture competition
Client: Kristiansand Municipality
Design: Monolab; team: J.W. van Kuilenburg with M. Klauser, S. Fernandes, A. Hassouri, M. Zamazal
Structural engineering / services: Ove Arup – Amsterdam
Acoustic engineering: Ben Kok – Dorsser, Eindhoven
Year: 2004


…interacting cultural spheres


Generally, buildings like PAC have contradictory programs. On the one hand they need connective spaces like foyers, offices and distribution. On the other hand they need acoustic separations between the important public rooms like concert halls and theaters. A second issue is the obstructive position of ACC on top of the link with the town center. This makes the challenge: how to separate and connect at the same time?


The site is part of a new cultural district on the peninsula south of town. Important issues are the nearby silo building (industrial heritage), the passage over the site between downtown and this district and the link from the canal in the west to the rocky hill with the future parking in the east. Because the town is organized as a clear orthogonal grid, obstruction is an unknown phenomenon to the citizens of Kristiansand. So we allowed the public passage over the site to split the 16.000-m2 program into a lower part and a higher part.


To cope with this split we took advantage of the most direct villa concept: a floor and a roof with a ‘living’ in-between. To handle the 16.000-m2 program, we made a blow-up of an earlier project (House for E). This results in an urban super villa with two programmable slabs (plinth and roof) and the foyer in-between. All are all six meters high. Because the whole building is low and spread out, the ‘living’ will have to facilitate the urban passage and a foyer space at the same time.


We made an effort to give both levels of roof and foyer clear Cartesian references to the city blocks of Kristiansand’s urban tissue. The roof is an orthogonal elevated ‘city block’, while the foyer is its negative, a void in which the big rooms are behaving like masses. The plinth and roof sheets are the two worlds that protect and serve the open public level inbetween. To make this building fit Kristiansand, both are made of contextual materials. We made the roof of wood, because of Kristiansand’s history as wood exporting town and we made the plinth of natural stone, the material of the surrounding site. The two worlds of plinth and roof are apart and together at the same time. They cling together, interact and mingle and make direct contact as well.


The foyer stretches from the rock (with the parking inside) to the canal. Perpendicular to the foyer the passage for pedestrians and cyclists moves partly across and partly in the plinth. It connects the foot of the bridge with the central road on the peninsula and it divides the foyer into a lower ‘subculture’ part in the plinth and an elevated ‘high culture’ part on top. Both connections make a cross, dividing the building into four parts. Each part is given one of the four big public rooms.


The big public rooms are spread and embedded in the three main layers. The slabs of floor and roof will absorb the smaller parts of the program and take care of connections, services and distribution. The contact points between the three layers are the four largest public rooms: 1. concert hall 2. theatre, 3. multipurpose hall and 4. large rehearsal room. These rooms, unique objects with their own identity, organize the open living, connect the three layers of the project and support the big roof slab. Both slabs of plinth and roof facilitate perforations for the big public rooms. The different departments settle around these rooms. This culture villa is alive and kicking by four pulsing hearts.


The clear organization gives the roof and plinth freedom to interact: the concert hall is wrapped by a wooden curtain hanging down from the wooden roof, while the rehearsal room is wrapped by a stone skin pushed up from the rocky plinth. The theater and multipurpose volumes are different and finished with glass, respectively gold colored epoxy.


Between the parking in the rock and the villa we proposed two things. Along the plinth we integrated the passing road with a delivery zone for trucks and vans. The delivery zone directly connects to the storage rooms and workshop department that are further connected by wide service corridors to the four big rooms. On top of the plinth we planned the open air amphitheater. A big sloping wall in the rock serves three goals: as the wall of the parking, as the stairs that connects all parking levels with the building and as the seating for the amphitheatre. The glass tube of the foyer directly connects with the parking by puncturing this sloping wall.


The plinth acts as foundation, three meters below and three meters over ground level. It behaves like a natural stone plateau and can be built by standard concrete pillar-beam construction techniques. The floating roof can make considerable spans by the grid of five-meter high steel trusses inside. Our point of departure for the foyer level in-between is to design a clean space and to avoid any kind of traditional structural devices like columns and beams.


The big rooms are acoustically separated from the rest of the building by the box-in-a-box technique. The inner boxes(silver for concerts and gold for theatre) all have their own foundation, separated by dilatations from the structure of the surrounding building.