Workbook: A Naturally Inspired Venue for Cirque du Soleil

Grupo Vidanta is building a new theater to house its upcoming Cirque du Soleil show, JOYÁ. The theater, designed by architect Arturo Hernandez, takes its cues from its location in the heart of the jungle. Image courtesy Grupo Vidanta.

Grupo Vidanta is building a new theater to house its upcoming Cirque du Soleil show, JOYÁ. The theater, designed by architect Arturo Hernandez, takes its cues from its location in the heart of the jungle. Image courtesy Grupo Vidanta.

Later this year, Cirque du Soleil and Grupo Vidanta will be opening a new show and culinary experience on the Riviera Maya. Since Cirque du Soleiil shows often conjure thoughts of Vegas, we were particularly intrigued about the possibility of translating the show experience into a venue in a more natural—read jungle—setting. The new show, dubbed JOYÁ, will live in a 600-seat theater. We chatted with the architect of the project, Arturo Hernandez, who graciously gave us some details on the upcoming project. 

How did the setting inform the design for the theater?
Riviera Maya is a place of spectacular natural beauty, and this lush jungle setting is emphasized in the theater’s design. Throughout Grupo Vidanta’s resorts, guests are invited to interact with the exquisite native flora and fauna in a luxurious setting, and my team continues to draw inspiration from the surrounding rain forests as we developed the theater and surrounding area. The structure itself, which is surrounded by rich swampland, has been transformed by the creativity and imagination of a team of architects, designers and engineers. Theater guests are in for an unforgettable experience before the show even starts. The design of the theater allows guests to escape its four walls and slip into the jungles of their imaginations.

How did the show itself shape the design for the theater?
This show is an immersive culinary and theatrical journey for guests. Intimacy and interactivity will be present in JOYÀ, with the Vidanta Theater in Riviera Maya seating 600 people. The audience size had a direct impact on the design and what our team was able to create. We recognized the need for a flexible theater footprint as the show’s acts occur on multiple levels and will rotate in the future. Seating needed to be flexible, but structurally sound for a full dinner service offering on both the dining and setup ends. That resulted in one level of dinner seating for around 200 people available each show. The remaining 400 seats are in a cocktail format. There are also multiple stages throughout the nearly 27,000 square-foot space, which is constructed as a theater in the round, to create a theater experience that is interactive and truly engaging for each individual.

 

Hernandez drew on diverse natural motifs as his inspiration for the project. Image courtesy Grupo VIdanta.

Hernandez drew on diverse natural motifs as his inspiration for the project. Image courtesy Grupo VIdanta.

Were there any particular challenges with the design process or construction?
Our design team had to think very creatively about how the design of the theater would best enable the Cirque du Soleil performers to create an entirely new category of entertainment experience for guests. Because this theater exclusively houses JOYÁ, we had incredible opportunities to take a deeper look at details for how people —artists, staff, guests, etc.—interact with spaces under the specific circumstances of the entertainment spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil. Before we even began sketching designs, we attended more than 20 Cirque du Soleil performances across Europe and Asia to observe, analyze and develop the environment that would exceed all guest expectations. My team’s careful attention to detail shines through in the outstanding final design of the theater.

What was the materials palette like?

Keeping with the emphasis on the beautiful surroundings, our design team sought to incorporate as many natural materials as possible. We covered the concrete and steel foundation of the theater with a woven palm exterior. The textures and colors of the décor also communicate the essence of the natural movement of the rainforest just beyond the theater doors.

To see more on the constrution of the project, visit here.

 

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