het Theater Festival

Buildings of TheaterFestival: DE Studio

za 01 sep 2018

Theatre is more than actors in front of a crowd: it needs space, above all, in order to exist. In the metropole that is Antwerp, several playhouses open their doors for TheaterFestival. Hidden treasures often have a rich history, not unlike the productions they host. Every two days, we honour these buildings of TheaterFestival.

Today: DE Studio!


Situated in the midst of Antwerp’s cultural centre, with theatres left and right, you can find DE Studio on Mechelseplein. Now an artistic home for anyone under the age of 30, with projects for and by youngsters, DE Studio’s contemporary use is far from its original purpose. However, its stately façade with clean-cut faux-columns and swerving steel decorations reminds us of the building’s original proprietor. Originally constructed in 1780 as a nobleman’s city residence, DE Studio carries a history of repurposing. It has not always been a central meeting place for artists in Antwerp’s Quartier Latin. The style, owing to the original 18th-century neoclassical style à l’antique, has remained consistent throughout the centuries, even when new wings or rooms for its new lives were added.

In 1820 the building was bought by a banker, Petrus-Joseph de Caters, who used it both as his private residence as for the bank’s central offices. By the 1880s the company was struggling financially, leading to a new era for the building. With the 1885 world exposition held in Antwerp, there was a sudden need for luxurious hotels in the city centre. Hoping to better their finances, the Caters family turned the bank into a Grand Hotel. A new wing with a winter garden, a library and a ballroom was added, as well as an inscription on the street side. Dire times brought new residents, when during World War I Germans used it as lodgings for their chief officers. Once the war was over in 1919, a new banking company bought the property and added ticket-
windows with mosaic decorations, as well as an underground complex with various safes.

In 1970, the times of cultural ventures had finally arrived. The actor’s studio Herman Teirlinck, established in 1945, started using the decadent building to train Belgium’s most promising actors and actresses. In 1995, however, the city of Antwerp cut down on artistic grants. As a result, the former Studio Herman Teirlinck and Toneelklas Dora Van der Groen were forced to merge, with
a single programme offered in the Royal Conser­vatory at deSingel. As of 2002, there was no educational institution in DE Studio. In 2011, the city of Antwerp granted the building to Villanella, an arthouse which specifically aims to support young artists.

And that is how DE Studio became an open space for young artistic dialogue. With multiple rooms and halls that still remind us of its stately history, DE Studio proves an interesting space for anything related to art: exuberant parties, reasonably priced film screenings, experimental script readings. Occasionally, projects with a wider outreach also find a place in DE Studio. A multimedia tour called Voices of DE Studio in the entrance halls remembers the former school’s many colourful teachers and assignments.

Ans Van Gasse

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