Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay is a waterside building located on six hectares of waterfront land alongside Marina Bay near the mouth of the Singapore River, purpose-built to be the centre for performing arts for the island nation of Singapore. Taking its name from the nearby Esplanade, it contains a Concert Hall which seats about 1,600 and a Theatre with a capacity of about 2,000 for the performing arts.
The library@esplanade is located on the third floor of the building. There are outdoor performing centres, and retail and food space at the Esplanade Mall. There is an outdoor open space on the fourth floor of the building, which is the highest point open to the public.
As one of the world’s busiest arts centres, Esplanade offers a wide range of programmes. In addition to Esplanade Presents performances, other offerings by diverse presenters complement the programmes at the centre.
Esplanade’s programmes are broadly organised around key areas – the community and access programmes form the foundation of activities at the centre, collaborations with mainly local arts groups help develop the industry, while leading international productions aim to offer innovative programmes in the major arts genres. These programmes are presented in different festivals and series designed to appeal to a broad range of audiences.
Esplanade's in-house programming team presents over 14 festivals and 20 on-going series throughout the year. As a centre for everyone, the programmes range from PLAYtime! for 2 to 4 year olds, Bitesize - a monthly talk and workshop taster series for a range of Arts topics, to At The Concourse - a non-ticketed music series that runs everyday of the year, as well as Coffee Morning Afternoon Tea - concerts featuring nostalgic English and Chinese golden hits by veteran local artists.
The Esplanade occupies the site of the former "Satay Club", a popular food haunt for Singaporeans which had been discontinued prior to the Esplanade's construction. Currently, the "Satay Club" has been re-allocated next to Sembawang Shopping Center which is now rebuilt on the same piece of land.
On 5 July 2005, the opening ceremony of the 117th IOC Session was staged in the Esplanade, featuring a 30-minute long performance aimed at showcasing Singapore's multi-cultural heritage to her international audience.
The building was designed by two architectural firms working in conjunction: by DP Architects (DPA) of Singapore and the London-based Michael Wilford & Partners (MWP), although the latter left the project in May 1995. The original design, presented to the public in 1994, consisted of unadorned glass cases over the theaters, and initially elicited criticisms from the public, including calling it "two copulating aardvarks". Critics also accused that the design is insensitive to Singapore's location and climate as it would have created a greenhouse in the tropical climate of Singapore, but according to DPA director Vikas Gore some form of shading was always intended, and a cladding of aluminum sunshades was added to the final design. The unique architectural design has been said to have an appearance similar to either a durian (a tropical fruit) or the eyes of a fly. Hence, the building is colloquially known to locals as "the durians".
The Esplanade contains world-class performing spaces, coupled with a wide range of professional support services and facilities. Other than performing venues, the Esplanade also contains meeting venues, as well as other lifestyle and arts related services. The main highlights of the Esplanade - the Concert Hall and Theatre, are connected to the main Concourse via a foyer, while the Esplanade Mall is accessible through an entry point located between these 2 halls.
- Concert Hall
The orchestral platform is able to hold up to 120 musicians. Above it is the movable acoustic canopy, which is composed of three pieces, each weighing 17 tons. This canopy serves the purpose of a sound reflector, both to get the right acoustics to suit the ongoing event, and also to enable musicians to hear themselves on stage. As such, the hall can cater to a diverse range of musical performances.
The hall's reverberation chamber, used to vary the acoustic characteristics of the Hall, is an open void that spans three levels and has a volume of 9,500 cubic metres, or about the volume of four Olympic-sized swimming pools. It boasts 84 computer controlled doors and flaps. Each door weighs between 3 to 11 tons, with the largest door being 10.5 meters in height and the smallest door being 2.2 meters tall. This chamber is hidden behind mahogany timber ribs that frame the front walls of the Concert Hall.
The Concert Hall is able to comfortably seat about 1,600 people over four levels in an intimate setting. Types of seats include Stalls, Foyer stalls, and Circles 1, 2, and 3. There are another 200 seats in the choir stalls behind the concert hall stage, which may be converted into Gallery seats for an additional 200 people. There are also four exclusive VIP Private Boxes, which provide a close-up view of the performances.
The Esplanade's Theatre which has a capacity of about 2,000 seats is a form of an adaptation of the horseshoe form of a traditional European opera house. Spread out over four levels, it is designed for all genres of the performing arts, including but not limited to Asian and Western arts, Musicals and plays, classical, traditional and contemporary forms and advanced multimedia performances, whether they are large scale, or intimate in size.
The Theatre is home to Singapore’s largest performing stage (39m length x 23m width), and this caters for a diverse range of performances. There is a main stage and two ancillary stages of similar size to facilitate technical set-ups and quick scene changes. The main stage is framed by an adjustable proscenium arch, allowing the stage width to be adjusted from 12m-16m. There is also a 30m high fly tower, as well as an adjustable orchestra pit that can hold up to 100 musicians.
Although the theatre is considered large with about 2000 seats, the viewing distance between the furthest seat and the stage is just 40m, thus allowing patrons a clear view of what's going on on stage.
- Recital Studio
The fan-shaped Recital Studio is able to contain 245 people and is a good venue for small scale and intimate chamber musical performances, as well as presentations and meetings. In addition to its timber flooring, the studio’s wall and ceiling finishes are designed in order to ensure good acoustics. The Studio is also commonly used as a rehearsal space for orchestras and choirs.
- Theatre Studio
The Theatre Studio, with a capacity of up to 220, is a small setting for experimental theatre and dance presentations. The performance space, equipped with movable and retractable seating, offers a wide variety of configurations . Although small, it is equipped with adaptable staging, lighting and sound systems, therefore enabling it to accommodate different kinds of performances.
Jendela means window in Malay. The Esplanade Jendela is a 215sq m exhibition space on the second level dedicated to the presentation of the visual arts. With a distinctive architecture and panoramic views of Marina Bay, the Jendela hosts many art exhibitions, some of them which are full scale shows that are integrated with other events at the Esplanade. It showcases works by local, regional, as well as international collections.
The library@esplanade, located on the third floor, is Singapore's first public library devoted to the performing arts.
- Outdoor venues
The Esplanade features an outdoor performing venue called the Outdoor Theatre which is located along the promenade. The Outdoor Theatre stage regular free performances, meant to liven up the arts scene. Other than that, the building also features a large roof terrace with a panoramic view of Marina Bay and the city area. There are also courtyards and open spaces which can be used for various activities.
In the relatively short time that The Esplanade has been open it has played host to a wealth of big name acts and performances, including the Queen Musical We Will Rock You, Avenue Q and the regular Mosaic Music Festival. It has also proudly championed locally-based acts with performances by various groups, including The Great Spy Experiment, etc., Mathilda & the Motherfunkys, West Grand Boulevard and The Disclaimers.
The durian-shaped Esplanade stands out in front of the Marina Square area
- MobileReference (1 January 2007). Travel Singapore: Illustrated Travel Guide, Phrasebook, and Maps. MobileReference. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-60501-015-1. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- "Satay Club". Infopedia. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- "Interview Vikas Gore: Esplanade Integrates Modern and Asian Elements". ABC Interview with Vikas Gore. Archived from the original on 2009-10-26.
- The New York Times "Travel Guide: Singapore"
- "Concert Hall introduction in Esplanade homepage". Archived from the original on 2006-11-12. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
- Mosaic Music Festival
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