The Academy for Circus and Performance Art at Fontys University in Tilburg distinguishes itself from other European circus schools by bridging the gap between classical and contemporary circus. The Academy’s programme includes a mixture of traditional subjects, such as acrobatics, trapeze, juggling and clowning, as well as contemporary subjects comprising mime, movement, performance and working with objects. Additional subjects include set design, multimedia and theatre technology. The art of circus is fed by other art forms – such as theatre, visual arts, dance and music.
Sports hall for Fontys University
For years students had been learning their craft in a traditional old-style ‘Big Top’ tent. The university urgently required a building with the flexibility to cover the total range of subjects within an environment that could accommodate the specialist practical training – but could also offer quiet areas where students could study the theory of performance art.
Sitting within a busy campus, it was essential for the academy’s new building be erected and fitted out swiftly and efficiently without interrupting the day-to-day operation of the university.
Neptunus’ designers were asked to create a unique environment in which students could practise a range of techniques that are critical to the art of a circus performer. There was an absolute requirement for an internal height of 10.5m and to provide loadbearing rigging for the ceiling-mounted gymnastic equipment.
Neptunus erected a state-of-the-art Flexolution structure, measuring 720 square metres with an internal height of 10.5 metres, to form the main sports and training hall. The Flexolution, which measures 12 metres at its highest point externally, has a load-bearing ceiling which is central to its design. The ceiling only required some additional fixing points to be installed, enabling it to bear the weight of sophisticated rigging necessary
for high-wire and trapeze performances.
A single-storey, 360-square metre extension adjoins the main hall to form classrooms, office space and changing rooms.
The Flexolution is made of aluminium columns and laminated wooden beams, with sandwich panels for the walls and roof, making it fully demountable. The floor is placed directly onto the foundations using a base of steel beams and wooden floor segments. Preparation work began in June 2013 and the build began in July, on the site of the original big top. A six-strong team of technicians took just 30 days to complete the assignment and on August 23, 2013, the building was complete, fully fitted-out and ready for use.
The Flexolution is the first semi-permanent structure to comply with the directives of the Building Decree 2012 which focuses on the sustainability of new buildings and has been awarded Energy Label A. Its modular structure means the design and dimensions are flexible and it is fully demountable and reusable. Its excellent insulation also mean it is highly energy-efficient to run.
The Flexolution’s operational life can be anything from a few months to 20 years and in terms of both appearance and quality, the structure cannot be distinguished from a fixed, permanent building.
Students are working in a bespoke, ultra-modern and fully-equipped training centre that can accommodate the practise of the full range of techniques required to be mastered by students during their four-year degree course in becoming a circus artist.
One of the critical factors was the quality of the weight bearing ceilings in Neptunus’ Flexolution structure which could cope with rigging for trapeze, safety netting and all the ropes associated with circus performance.
Fontys university has purchased the facility from Neptunus to become a permanent fixture on the campus.