Kazan functionaries distance themselves from winner of competition for new Kamal Theatre

Works on the modernisation of one of the symbols of the Tatarstan capital will begin this year

Kazan functionaries distance themselves from winner of competition for new Kamal Theatre
Photo: presentation slide

A consortium chaired by Moscow-based Wowhouse won the open international competition for the architectural concept of the Galiasgar Kamal Tatar State Academy Theatre. Pacesetters of “democratic procedures” publicly stress they supported another project. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report what its authors offer the city and why the functionaries aren’t really happy about their victory.

“Our older generation chose modern”

The project outstripped the second position a duet of Bespoke and Asif Khan Studio just by 0,7 points. Moscow’s Metropolis (with Coop Himmelb(l)au from Vienna) and Miriada Group from Kazan is third.

As Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin admitted, he got home at 1 a.m. because the discussion was “tough.” Like Aide to the Tatarstan president Natalia Fishman-Bekmambetova (she said she cried at night), chief architect of Kazan Ilsiyar Tukhvatullin, Tatarstan Minister of Culture Irada Ayupova, he obviously supported the project of Elina Safarova and Asif Khan — a white building personifying the concept of a white sheet of paper and theatre as a canvas. One could see him argue with former chief architect of the city Nikolay Vasilyev and poet Razil Valeyev calling this project a masterpiece. Perhaps, the aqsaqals’ vote turned out to be decisive.

General view

“Our older generation chose modern. It became a complete surprise for me,” said Metshin. At the same time, he indicated that he was going to meet with Asif Khan, the author of the blackest building in the world, a pavilion for the 23rd Winter Olympics in South Korea to discuss cooperation. It is noteworthy that the mayor insistently named the place of the construction site, the Old Tatar Settlement, though it is the territory of the Archangel Settlement.”

According to the talks between speakers, Chief Director of the theatre Farid Bikchantayev learnt the result after he came to the meeting, though he expected Bespoke would win.

“There is no wedding without offence,” he remembered a saying.

The embankment

So one of the speakers said nothing about the project of Wowhouse during their welcome speech. However, Metshin cited head of the Theatre of Nations Yevgeny Mironov who said he felt admiring envy. Also, he recognised that he listened to Bikchantayev who noted that the new building was a challenge for the repertoire.

Fishman-Bekmambetova anyway added that Wowhouse designed the building of Elektroteatr during a visit to which Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov decided to build the new building of the Kamal Theatre. She also mentioned the union between Russian and Japanese authors and the involvement of Bakulin who was one of those who worked on the building on Tatarstan Street.: “If he weren’t, the application would be weaker.”

The big hall

“Triangular roofs of houses or mansions, mosques, minarets with pyramidal roofs”

Wowhouse is famous for the new building of Elektroteatre in Moscow, Pioneer cinema, the Documentary Cinema Centre, the work on Strelka, Praktika theatre. Kengo Kuma has the Santori Art Museum, the Great Bamboo Wall in Beijing, an art museum in Nagasaki as well as the New National Stadium — the main stadium of the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games — in his portfolio.

The project of Wowhouse is created on an area of 23,465 square metres. Moreover, the building of the theatre will be 36,842 square metres with four falls. The authors note in a 197-page presentation:

“Kazan’s panoramic views are rife with vertical bell towers and minarets. High towers looking at the sky recreate the image of the forest, a unique and rich ecosystem full of potential opportunities. We will stress geometrical motifs of traditional Kazan roof landscapes: triangular roofs of houses or mansions, mosques, minarets with pyramidal roofs. A special triangular shape of roof silhouettes and the Japanese origami technique can be used in the exterior and interior concept of the future building.”

A universal hall

The brave decision strongly influenced the appearance that Fishman-Bekmambetova called it militarist.

It is noted that the “symbolic space of the Big Hall is created thanks to arches resembling Tatar holy sites.” The capacity of the hall is 600 people. Also, there was designed a universal hall for 200 people with a mobile wall with a view to the environment and a park: “Traditional fabric panels with a Tatar ornament open and serve for acoustics. They slide from the ceiling and create a bright and cosy atmosphere of the traditional Tatar home.” At the same time, the hall can be a simple black box.

The Oriental hall

An Oriental round hall for 200 people where Wowhouse was inspired by national ornaments is a special request of the theatre. Finally, there is a chamber hall for 30-40 visitors.

Also, a lot of public spaces are planned inside the theatre: an open theatre laboratory, a space for excursions and exhibitions, a cafe, bar, a bookstore and souvenir shops and theatre workshops with the possibility of holding master classes.

The job is planned to cost 7,8 billion rubles. The theoretical deadline on the construction site is 2025. Perhaps, some processes will begin this year. However, the organisers indicated the project would improve.

Radif Kashapov
Tatarstan