The new Elizabethan Theater at Chateau d'Hardelot opened this week with the Midsummer Festival. IIT Professor and MLA Director Ron Henderson / L+A designed the landscape in collaboration with the architect, Andrew Todd.
The theater is the first permanent neo-Shakespearean theater in France and was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on a recent state visit to France. The theater-in-the-round is the first building in the world constructed of curved unfinished cross-laminated-wood structural panels which allowed ultra-fast assembly of the theater in seven weeks. The new theater is located on a site rich with Anglo-French collaborative history, including being the site of the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain in 1904.
In a review in "The Observer", Rowan Moore wrote, "Unlike many palaces of culture," says Todd, "it is possible to put on a show In this building literally with nothing, using only natural light from the sun and natural ventilation, the breath of the surrounding forest."
The landscape is distinguished by a stand of Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) and Tilia tomentosa (linden, or lime tree) that were preserved by the careful placement and pre-fabricated construction techniques of the theater. Paths of crushed seashells give access to the theater and to the restored wetland meadow adjacent to the theater.
Rowan described the approach to the theater in his review: "The approach is deliberately indirect, obliging you to stroll round the edge of the building through a grove of chestnuts and limes, pause before a fine view of the landscape and another of the castle, and tum to enter the theatre. That the building is of timber - which is not easy to achieve in a complex structure built to modern regulations about such things as spread of fire - gives it a provisional air, as if it might disappear in an act of Prospero's magic. Shortly before the opening Todd lamented that the grass had been mown; it was meant to rise from something more meadow-like. Inside and out it has a sense of incompletion, of waiting to be remade with its performances."