Open-air theatre from shipping container

Marvel proposes using shipping containers for Covid-safe outdoor theatre in New York

Architecture firm Marvel has designed a concept for open-air theatres within shipping containers to put on outdoor performances in New York during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marvel's concept involves converting shipping containers into stages bridging between two scaffolding towers, raised 12 feet (3.6 metres) over the street.

Shipping container theatre concept by Marvel
Shipping containers could become a stage

In the evenings, the road could be closed off to vehicle traffic to allow an audience to sit below, looking up at the stage. During the day, cars and cyclists could pass below the bridge theatre unimpeded.

Platforms in front of the shipping container sets would act as more stage space. The audience could sit, socially distanced, at ground level.

Performances held above street

Broadway, New York's famous theatre district, has been closed since 12 March 2020, the day after the WHO announced that coronavirus had become a pandemic. Its theatres are expected to remain shuttered until June 2021.

The local architecture firm developed the concept in response to NY PopsUp, a plan to put on 300 pop-up theatre performances announced by New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

Marvel plans
The containers would rest on a bridge over the road

Marvel designed the shipping-container bridge theatres to demonstrate that performances could be carried out on busy streets with limited impact on the flow of pedestrians and no impact on daytime traffic.

"There is a culture of sidewalk bridging in our streets and sidewalks," said practice founder Jonathan Marvel.

"Scaffolding of this kind can provide an elevated staging for both performances as well as towers to support the 40-foot spanning containers, letting pedestrians and automobiles flow beneath."

LED screens could be inserted into the containers, suggested Marvel, to form a programmable backdrop. An orchestra could play in the area below the bridge.

Shipping containers provide ready-made base

Using shipping containers as a ready-made base structure would speed up construction time, he explained.

"Shipping containers are ready-made utilitarian boxes adaptable to serve our need for shelter," said Marvel.

"They have been deployed on many occasions for housing, retail, storage – and can easily be stacked and bridged – so within a week or two, we can have instant stage support, green rooms, and technical storage."

If there is interest in the project, Marvel said it could quickly test out the design near Broadway.

"A pilot project could be assembled temporarily in an empty parking lot adjacent to the cross street in the theatre district, and tested for operability and safety concerns," the architect suggested.

Designers around the world have responded to the crisis in the arts as crowded indoor venues remain unsafe. In Bogota, architecture collective Colab-19 built a multistorey structure from scaffolding that is being used as a performance space, outdoor restaurant and viewing platform

Architecture studio Stufish has produced a concept for a socially-distanced theatre that could seat an audience of over 1,000.

Images courtesy of Marvel.