"Teatre D'Hades" Residence
Location: Le Grand Hornu, Belgium
Area: 20000 m²
Features: Brick and precast reinforced concrete
Client: Municipality
Author: Manuel Nunez Yanowsky, Les Atelliers du Grand Hornu
Date and phase: Project and construction 1978-1981

Architects: Manuel Nunez Yanowsky, together with H. Guchez, F.Guardia, R. Guardia, G. Pirson

In the Theater of Hades, his Belgian public housing project, Nunez’s obsession with the theater becomes fully evident. The Grand Hornu, site of the Theater of Hades, was built in the 19th century as an ideal industrial community. With the decline of the local mines, it has been transformed into a particularly depressed area where unemployment is the general rule. Manuel Nunez has chosen a brick façade for the exterior perimeter of these buildings, echoing the material of many surrounding row houses, with arched openings clearly designed to evoke a stadium, or, in Piranesi’s vocabulary, a coliseum. Within, the reference performance is even more obvious. Semi-circular rows of steps (orchestra seats) and balcony enclose a square where community activities are planned. The opposite façade even boasts an elaborate perspective backdrop meant to evoke architectural forms to the typical Belgian house. Manuel Nunez points out that the greatest squares of the world, such as that of Siena, were always built out like theaters where residents could look out their windows and see that all the world is indeed a stage. As it happens, the program set for Nunez included a large square, whose use the architect has tried to encourage through the open embrace of the arcades. If the design of the Theater of Hades does permit the creation of an active public square in the Italian sense, Nunez will have broken the pattern of unused public space so frequent in modern architecture. In itself, this will be no small accomplishment.

/ Philip E. Jodidio. Works of Manolo Nunez Yanowsky. A+U 8605, p. 117-122.