La Llotja by Mecanoo 07.07.10

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The overhang provides shade in summer and shelter in winter (image: Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre)

La Llotja is a theatre and conference centre in Lleida, Spain, by Dutch architecture practice Mecanoo. The building is clad in a patchwork of stone panels that give it a monolithic yet rustic appearance. "It looks like it is coming out of the Spanish earth," says Francine Houben, principal of Mecanoo. "It's very hard, not like the soft soil of the Netherlands."

The design is a clever application of solid functionalist principles: the theatre loft is expressed boldly, the overhanging section provides shelter from the blazing sun in summer and the bitter rain in winter, and upon entering the visitor is taken on an architectural promenade: after ascending through the atrium along a series of grand ramps, a grand view out over the city and the river is revealed, before one enters 
the auditorium from above. Public spaces are important too: "The public square is almost like an outdoor theatre itself," says Houben, while on the roof is a tapas bar covered in pergolas for climbing plants.

As well as the allusions to the rocky soil, the building frequently pays reference to the local industry of fruit production – much of the interior is splashed with orange, yellow, purple and green, while the main theatre has lights in the image of an autumnal tree. With so many of the visitors to the building being travelling delegates, it's important to Houben that the building expresses something of the local character. "We often work with a regional feeling," she says. "That's very Mecanoo."

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The approach to the plaza (image: Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre)

 

 Words

Douglas Murphy

quotes story

The design is a clever application of solid functionalist principles: the theatre loft is expressed boldly

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