Dance Palace by UNStudio



Dutch architects UNStudio have won a competition to design a dance theatre in  St. Petersburg, Russia.


Clad in triangular panels of varying opacity, the building will be situated on a new square in the historic centre of the city.


The two horseshoe-shaped auditoriums will have a combined capacity of 1,300.


“An essential requirement when we were designing the auditorium was to make it possible to see the dancer’s feet from every seat in the hall at all times, no matter where the performer was positioned on the stage,” explains Ben van Berkel of UNStudio.


Here's some more information from UNStudio:


Dance Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2009 - UNStudio/ Ben van Berkel’s design selected for Dance Palace in the historic centre of St. Peterburg

UNStudio’s design has been selected in the competition for a 21,000 square meter dance theatre in the historic centre of St. Petersburg. The new complex houses The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, headed by the prolific choreographer Boris Eifman. From the four projects presented (Jean Nouvel (FR), UNStudio (NL), Snøhetta (NO), ZAO (RU)), UNStudio’s design was yesterday unanimously chosen by the jury for realisation.

The Dance Palace forms an integrated part of the European Embankment city quarter masterplan for a new urban square in the historic centre of St. Petersburg.

According to Ben van Berkel, “The urban context of the building is essential to the design. The Dance Palace is positioned on the square in such a way as to allow for unrestricted visibility towards the nearby Prince Vladimir and Peter and Paul cathedrals, thereby framing some of the most exceptional buildings in St. Petersburg. The sculptural qualities of the Dance Palace reflect those of the surrounding buildings in the masterplan, providing a connection to its surroundings yet still retaining saliency. A central main entrance is incorporated into the façade design in order to fully integrate the building into this lively public square.”


UNStudio’s design for the Dance Palace presents an open and inviting theatre building with provision for 1300 guests (large auditorium 1000, small auditorium 300). Programmatic considerations focus on the spacious circulation of the public foyer and the transparent relationship to the surrounding public square and the city. Integration with the existing neighbouring buildings is achieved by both the scale of the building - which in elevation follows and respects St. Petersburg’s typical 28m roofline – and the transformative transparency which is introduced by a facade system of triangular cladding panels. The variation between opaque and perforated panels creates a controlled openness, depending on programme, views and orientation.

Ben van Berkel says of the foyer design, "The vertical foyer provides a high level of transparency from inside to outside, whilst also presenting a kind of stage for visitors to the theatre; a place to see and be seen. The open arrangement and balcony structure in the foyer provides plateaus for its own choreography of both intimacy and exposure.”


The stage

Essential to UNStudio’s design for the main auditorium in the new dance theatre are both the acoustic considerations and the proximity of the audience to the stage. For this reason the horseshoe form was chosen. This form is considered to be one of the most successful forms acoustically in ballet and musical theatre for both performer and audience, whilst the proximity it affords to the stage ensures an intimate and collective experience for the spectator.


Engineering: ARUP
Theatre consultant: theateradvies bv, Amsterdam

Client: OOO “Peterburg City”
Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
Building surface: 21,000 m2
Building height: 28 m
Status: 1st prize competition entry


Ben van Berkel, Gerard Loozekoot with Christian Veddeler, Wouter de Jonge and Jan Schellhoff and Kyle Miller, Maud van Hees, Hans-Peter Nuenning, Arnd Willert, Nanang Santoso, Imola Berczi, Tade Godbersen, Patrik Noome


Theatre consultant: theateradvies bv, Amsterdam Louis Janssen, Caroline Noteboom

Jaap Wiedenhoff (Arup director), Soren Svare (Arup Russia), Arjan Habraken (Structures), Gerard Nouwens (MEP), Pascal Steenbakkers (Fire & coordinator), Helen Butcher (Acoustics), Rudi Scheuerman (Facades), Sergei Nikigorov (Arup Russia), Sam Wise (Acoustics and Costing), Oleg Romashkin (Arup Russia), Stanislav Korulin (Arup Russia), Lyudmilla Jones (Fire), George Faller (Fire), Daan van Konijnenburg (MEP), Christa de Vaan (MEP)

Posted on Wednesday July 22nd 2009 at 12:30 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • I think this is quite beautiful, and I hope it becomes a reality.

  • NNN

    This building is just so damn sexy. Nicely executed form with an essence that is floating.

  • great design perfect elegance and contemporary building, i think that jury did not mistake in their descision. If you’re interested to see the other competition designs here are a lot of photots from flickr courtesy of Victor Tropchenko

    enjoy :)

  • I always hated not being able to see dancers’ feet from the audience…

    The whole building is exquisite.

  • andy

    Wow, I’m usually not one for these formal 3d exercises everybody is popping out nowadays, but this is kind of great.


    i was half expecting to see alot of bashing of the design
    very nice forms elegant and clean
    very simple looking plan that diagram was quite
    helpful would prefer to see more diagrams
    well done UN studio

  • KJS

    I’m not terribly impressed with the proposal but I could see it working well in a more contemporary context. However, I can only imagine this becoming an eyesome amidst the charming classicism of St. Petersburg.

  • jh

    Ben is Zaha

  • paul

    I agree with KJS, impressive but it’s not working in that location.

  • sc hu yl er

    “Ben is Zaha” — pretty damn close.
    I’m also critical of the current bombardment of “elegant” buildings such as this, but this is one of the more interesting ones I’ve seen in a while. I think it’s actually a great site and they’re working with it fairly well. My only beef is it’s size– it’s too big and ought to recede a little more into the site.

  • pistabaci

    i’m not a very big fan of hadid, and this looks quite “hadid-esque”, but after looking at the competition (on the flickr link posted here) i’d say it wasn’t much of a competition. i was almost certain that snohetta’s would be right up next to it, but i’m somewhat dissappointed with it.
    from the design brief and the presentation, this project seems fantastic. i hope i get to see it someday

  • Scarpasez

    Wow…this is just incredible. And from what I’ve seen of the work they have had built recently, UN Studio continue to realize their concepts in reality really well.

  • Pierre Sinsua

    the world now has to zaha hadids to choose from

  • rodger

    i’ll take back my previous unpublished remark, this project is quiet successful (interiors aside) on many levels. i saw additional drawings . much more was revealed. this project was the best entry out of the competitors.

    the figurative aspect of the entry fits the program very well. congrats.

  • san

    I don´t understand the comments stating ben and zaha would be the same. I think comments like these (which seem very common among some dezeen readers) are very unqualified and show a lack of understanding spatial concepts like these.

    Curve-linear architecture and design existed long before hadid showed up, it´s by far not her inverntion (she´s just very good at it). Think of Tribes or experimental architecture of the 60ies (even without computer!)

    ben and zaha started their practices almost at the same time, as far as I know they even did a project together during their time as students at the AA. So (pierre sinsua) – there´s nothing to choose between them because they are different. Both came their own way, have their own conceptual approach to architecture. People claiming that they are the same just reveal that they simply don´t understand their work.

    according to the logic of some of you all curve-linear projects are like zaha´s work. following this simplification you also could state that all architectural projects using straight lines are copies of the bauhaus or international style or another famous represantative of boxy architecture. by doing so you would deny the big diversity which lies within designs using straight lines and all its protagonists(classicism, international style, postmodern, deconstructivist, constructivist and so on).

  • sally

    Well done! Unstudio, congratulations!