I beamed with pride as I looked around and realized all of this was built to honor our god of medicine, Asklepios. As I walked through this astounding healing sanctuary, I noticed how quiet the atmosphere was. Amidst the athletic complexes, baths, and temples, the healing center sat quietly within all of the commotion. There was a soothing energy felt here in this space. But, I felt deep within that this complex was lacking something. That was the moment I knew that I needed to flee from sculpture for some time and depart on a journey of building structures. A theatre would be a perfect addition because of its ability to bring people together and raise spirits. Combining music and medicine in order to design a gathering space in perfect harmony with human nature - this is what my main goal is in the creation of this theatre.
Along with myself, a great soul named Aristotle believes that music and medicine go hand in hand. People who are in distress or pain have found ease and enjoyment from listening to certain kinds of music, or focusing their attention on something like a theatrical show. Since medicine is such an important part of our Greek society, and music and medicine relate, it only makes sense for me to create some kind of structure for entertainment. I can picture it now: huge, tucked into Mount Kynortion, filled with thousands of people all watching one performance. The design will accommodate as many people to be able to gather as possible. Since my passion lies in sculpting, I know I will meet many challenges along the way that I never have before. I am going to use all of my knowledge of architecture, in addition to all of the knowledge of my builders and friends.
The most important part that I am trying to achieve is the audience enjoying the show. In order for each person to enjoy the performance, it has to be acted out well, and either relatable, comical, or tragic. But one thing that I do not think many builders of my time think of is the setting and the view of those who walk through their creations. I would like the audience to have a breathtaking view; I am going to create the theatre in the shape of a bowl, facing west, in order for the rising sun to light up the landscape behind. This will allow for a glorious view of the sacred valley of Asklepios, creating a perfect place for the audience to enjoy absolutely everything around them. They will feel in harmony with nature because the structure will be implementing the natural contours of Mount Kynortion, encompassed by surrounding lush pine trees and oleanders. Just like the harmonious discovery of music and medicine, that of keeping the actual structure or building in tune with the nature of the landscape is a key factor in the creation of a building.
Like most theaters built in the Hellenic period, I am choosing a tripartite structure; it has an orchestra, an auditorium, and a stage building. Without these, the theatre would not be complete. The audience’s main focus will always be the actors, so I need to make this space perfect. The first step in creating this theatre is digging out this space in the shape of a circle, “The Gazing Space”. The orchestra is located in this circle that will be dug, the focal point while sitting in any row of the theatre. In between the orchestra and the first row, I will design a shallow tunnel in order for flooding not to be a problem. Behind the actors will be a scanae, the origin of the word “scene”, a two story building that can be painted as a backdrop and where special effects can be used. This innovative idea will bring a variety of life to the performance, hopefully attracting more people with each new show.
One of the most challenging parts of the design was perfecting the way the sounds travel. In the end, several different discoveries were made in the quest for perfect sound. I tried many different angles for the incline of the rows to follow, which I knew would all be acute angles. After many tests, I found that a 26 degree angle of all of the rows of seats would bring perfect resonance. Since sound reflects off of fluted or grooved surfaces, this can filter sound waves to emphasize particular frequencies, enhancing the original sound. Basically, the steps will act as “acoustic traps,” filtering out background noise like wind and the movement of people. Although the wind will sometimes be loud, the prevailing direction of the wind, which blows mainly from the stage to the audience will act as a guide for the performance noise to travel. No surface will be flat which will allow the sound to be diffused in many different directions. Since Epidaurus is far from Athens and the city, the landscape will be quiet while shows are going on, which will make it easier for the sound from the orchestra to travel untouched. Along with the noiseless environment, the bowl shape and hard materials of the theatre’s surfaces produce a clearer sound. It will allow for enough reflected and scattered sound energy which comes first from the stage building, then the orchestra floor and finally from the surfaces at the top and back of seat rows adjacent each listener position and which is equally spread to the audience.
I am planning to build 34 rows at the moment. There will be thirteen walkways geometrically dividing up the bowl-shape, beginning at the ground level to the topmost row. The rows in the front will be reserved for dignitaries; these seats will be built of darker stone with supportive backs built in. Behind them will be rows of the citizens who come to watch. For now, this will be enough rows for thousands of people to come from all around. They will be made of stone, limestone to be exact, so it lasts for centuries upon centuries. I would like everyone who lives long after our time to be able to enjoy this structure as it is built for our beloved god, Dionysus, a patron of the arts.
A hundred miles from Athens, situated in the archaeological site of the Sanctuary of Asklepios and tucked in the hills of Epidaurus, stands a feat of engineering: the Theatre in Epidaurus. He used the complimentary quality of theater and medicine to create a community space in harmony with the natural landscape: this was Polykletios’ main goal is in the designing and production of this theatre. This symbol of innovation, intelligence, and complexity has never been able to be mimicked. It is the most beautiful and best preserved of its time. Visitors come far and wide and wonder how could someone from such an early time in the history of the world create something so unique and innovative. Polykleitos the Younger’s name will live down in history as his theatre, this work of art, continues to awe generations and generations after him.
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