Built by Oscar Niemeyer, the Volcano has become a cultural symbol of the city of Le Havre, its curves forming an elegant counterpoint to the classic rigor of Perret’s post-war urban development. The two buildings that comprise it rest on a plinth along the extension of the inlet known as the Bassin du Commerce, thus forming one of the city’s main signals.
In light of the desertion of the square (which is nevertheless located in the city centre), the dilapidation of the cultural centre and its increasing obsolescence, along with technical and acoustic problems that have not been remedied compelled the city to redevelop the site by refurbishing and rendering this urban ensemble more accessible, bringing the buildings up to code, transforming the small volcano into a multimedia library, and restructuring the hall in the large volcano to meet the requirements of a national stage.
Since opening in 1982, the Volcano has suffered from the surrounding concrete slab developments: ruptures to the pedestrian walkways and the insertion of mediocre buildings, and a lack of maintenance, all of which have translated into the deterioration of the public space.
After a demolition period, construction began in 2012 and resulted in a staggered opening, the theatre in January 2015, and the multimedia library in December of that same year.
Niemeyer’s work in Le Havre is distinct from the rest of his work because it was created within the framework of the buildings designed by Perret.
The organic connection between the upper and lower squares and the two volcanos has been preserved, the guardrail for which is in the shape of a dove, when seen from above.
The interior layout, the acoustics, and the thermal insulation were totally redesigned to create a space with 820 seats and a stage of 530 m2. Its modular ceiling opens and closes according to either a “theatre” or a “concert” configuration.
The building’s spirit was preserved as much as possible, especially by highlighting the “plank concrete” within the theatre and library that is so characteristic of the constructions of that time.
The two halls in the Large Volcano – with 820 and 100 seats – were refurbished to give a greater sense of warmth and depth to the sound and to simply the circulations for the audience, the performers, and for all logistics.