Guthrie Theater

  • Minneapolis, USA
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Where two legends meet


Everything has origins: cities, theatres, people. Our birth has a purpose inscribed in our genetic makeup. If Minneapolis had not had its waterfalls, boats would not have stopped there, mills would never have been built, and it would have remained a village. And if Tyrone Guthrie had not had the imagination to build a popular theatre, a hall as unique and revered as the Guthrie’s thrust hall would never have seen the light of day.


Today the Guthrie Theatre settles into the historic golden rectangle next to the falls, near the old mills in the industrial quarters that was the birthplace of Minneapolis. Thus two histories, and two legends, meet. One will discover in the Guthrie that theatre is a type of industry, a production machine with sets and big trucks that is necessarily governed by a series of linked functions. Theatre is a process about fabricating and presenting a spectacle; architecturally this process can be expressed with the industrial building. Minneapolis will discover that history continues to be made; that if industry borne from the river contributed to its former prestige, culture has become an important part of its image and appeal today.


This is why the architecture of the Guthrie, by its volumes and colors, can be read as a far-off echo of silos, and why the shared lobby advances like a bridge to contemplate the waterfalls; and why the lighted signs above the adjacent silos create a dialogue with those of the theater, and why industrial bridges take the place of skyways, and why, finally, next to the direct re-interpretation of the thrust hall, two new theatres, one frontal, the other flexible, complete the industrial metaphor of the new Guthrie. The rest is just architecture, architecture without nostalgia, since these historic references are a perfect pretext for inventing and using the materials and techniques of the 21st century. Today as yesterday, history and modernity coexist, and the Guthrie, amidst mills and bridges, discovers its ambition to become a clear historic marker of the vitality and inventiveness of theatrical culture in Minneapolis in the year 2002.


Jean Nouvel