At a recent concert at the new Opera House in Florence, a famous jazz musician offered from stage, while waiting for a mechanical squeak only he could hear to be taken care of: “don’t trust modern concert halls, they’re not nearly as reliable as the old ones”. The packed-to-the-brim 1800-seat auditorium laughed politely, but without conviction. Florentines love their new Opera House.
It’s no easy feat to design a building that is relevant both locally and internationally, but the design of ABDR studio accomplishes just that. Designed in 2007, the Opera House in Florence fits well within a larger trend in architecture that is still going strong; the economic downturn and the consequent gloom translated into a rise in popularity of a particularly sombre shade of grey (#58646D). At the same time, locally sourced marble used for the façade corresponds perfectly with the three colours used for the façade of the Florentine Duomo.
During the class visit, LdM Interior Design and Contemporary Architecture students pointed out different design solutions that especially captivated their imaginations. Giuliana was interested in the material used for the modular panels on the tower’s elevation, which allowed for fascinating plays of light and shadow. The introduction of a large, decorative sphere within the cube of the foyer was an innovative way of referencing the sphere topping off Duomo’s lantern, pointed out Enrique. Cristina mentioned the craftsmanship behind the sound-proofing panels in the smaller auditorium, appreciating their role as both functional and decorative elements, while Carla was fascinated by the science behind the design of the main auditorium, which in the words of the architects themselves is “crafted as if it was a musical instrument”.
Four years after the opening, the Opera House is still much talked-about. Like the LdM students, the residents of the city respond in different ways to different design elements. And although Florence has no shortage of beautiful and functional theatres, the Opera House was a needed addition to the scene, not only because of its more advanced technological capacities, which are better suited to meet the current requirements of performance-based arts. A vibrant community that has grown and flourished around this institution is probably the most important consequence of this daring project, and a poignant response to why new opera houses are being built around the world.