In an astonishingly short time, the Sudraba Arhitektūra team has revitalised the former 1970s boiler house into a new cultural space nestled in the heart of Valmiera. This transformed space now serves as the temporary home for the Valmiera Theatre. Praised by an international jury, this adaptation of industrial heritage received special acclaim at this year’s Latvian Architecture Award in the architectural process category.
The Valmiera Theatre building has been undergoing reconstruction since 2021, facing setbacks due to rising costs, scarcity of construction materials, and unforeseen additional work. Amid disputes between the State Real Estate company and builders regarding the further course of reconstruction, the theatre proposed relocating to the former boiler house. With support from the Valmiera municipality and funding from the Ministry of Culture, a reconstruction project was swiftly developed, creating a theatre hall and essential ancillary rooms within a mere two months.
Even before adapting the space to meet the Valmiera Theatre’s needs, the Valmiera municipality envisioned transforming the former boiler house into a cultural venue of national and international significance. The Kurtuve project was initially part of the town’s proposal for the European Capital of Culture 2027 competition, and although Liepāja ultimately claimed the title, Valmiera remains committed to realising its vision. Sudraba Arhitektūra’s reconstruction project amplifies the building’s existing volume with the addition of a glass entrance hall, leveraging its full potential. The new lobby incorporates the building’s main architectural feature, a 50-metre brick chimney, while respecting its industrial heritage by preserving its brick, concrete blocks, and reinforced concrete structures.
With its central location and distinctive architectural character, the building has immense potential as a modern cultural hub. Even before reconstruction, Kurtuve hosted various events, exhibitions, workshops, and the Valmiera Theatre Festival. Upon the delay in the Valmiera Theatre building’s renovation, the theatre and the municipality seized the opportunity to propel the future multifunctional cultural centre in Kurtuve by tailoring it to the theatre’s requirements. Seeking assistance from Sudraba Arhitektūra, an office with previous experience with the building, the decision to convert Kurtuve into a theatre hall was made on October 5, 2022, and by December 21, the new stage had already witnessed its first performance.
The theatre’s temporary spaces boast distinct characteristics, with abundant natural light streaming through large windows. Kurtuve opened with the musical performance Koens. Atāls. Kurtuve, which integrated the windows into the set design, offering a picturesque view of the main street. «This showcases the architect’s ability to craft spaces that inspire set designers and users to create novel performances,» remarks Manten Devriendt, chairman of the Latvian Architecture Award jury. «We drew inspiration from Gustavs Klucis, an artist from the Valmiera region. The rawness of the interior mirrors the opera Vēsā staged in the unfinished space during the 2022 Valmiera Summer Theatre Festival,» comment the authors.
The Valmiera Theatre will continue operating in Kurtuve until 2024, celebrating its centenary in the temporary premises. The current design ensures that when the theatre eventually relocates, the space can be repurposed into a cultural venue with minimal investment. You can follow the latest news on Sudraba Arhitektūra on their Instgram account.