The Conference

“Wood and Canvas (and rabbit glue) in the Modern World” was organised by theatrEurope together with the OISTAT Architecture and Technology Commissions in Antwerp, Belgium, from 12th to 15th June of 2014.

The conference included, in adition to the lectures and presentations, a wide range of social an touristical activities.


The reception took place at the foyer of the Bourla theatre. The foyer has kept its original design since the opening of the theatre in 1834. Also the decorations in the foyer from the designs of Philastre and Cambon have been carefully restored.

The welcome word was pronounced by Peter McKinnon, professor at the York University in Canada that supported the conference with the financial help of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Without the international network of OISTAT the organisation of this conference wouldn’t have been possible. Louis Janssen, president of OISTAT, replied to the welcome words of Peter McKinnon.

Opening reception

Bourla tour


Participants of the conference enjoyed a tour of the auditorium, the stage and the historic machinery. The original machinery from 1834, almost complete and with the wood in exceptional good condition, is also designed by Philastra and Cambon. The auditorium space has been enlarged in 1865 by Peter Dens, then city architect of Antwerp. To the custom of the then fashionable Second Empire the dominant color balance for the auditorium was changed to gold and red.  During last restoration in 1993 by De Winter & Van Hunsel, some contemporary additions for motorised fly-bars in the fly tower have been added in such way that, if wished, they could be taken out easily without harming the historic building.


A visit was planned to the LaMonnaie opera house in Brussels. Besides a visit to the workshops and a presentation about the most recent renovations, there was also a well appreciated demonstration of the possibilities of baroque scene changes with a 1/10 scale model. In the same location the visitors could also see the working of some original LaMonnaie heritage machinery kept as relict for their museum. Among others our conference attendants could experience the wing chariot- and the cassette system. Also a smaller scale model of a baroque see-wave imitation system was part of the demonstrations.

LaMonnaie tour

The audience


From all over the world, besides the 18 presenters, there were 76 attendants, all together 94 persons coming from 22 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, USA.


The evening of Saturday 14 June there was a dinner at the crypt of the Sint Andries church (Saint Andrew) nearby. This 15th century faulted cellar can be rent from the Church Council and was appreciated as a very atmosphere bursting location. Ivo Kersmaekers organised to have excellent food provided by the caterer Zekookt bvba.

Dinner at the Crypt

Final panel discussion

The conference ended on Sunday 15 June with a Final Panel, with a first part gathering comments from the attendants on the content offered in this conference, and a second part having a confrontation with the different involved parties in the renovation/restoration of the Bourla theatre who defended their plans. This was very courageous from them, as they hadn’t attended any of the previous presentations. Video captions of this Final Panel can be seen on this page.


For those who stayed longer (and survived all the activities) that Sunday ended with a last dinner at Huis de Colvenier. This dinner started with aperitif and appetizers in their nice decorated basements. Then we moved to their covered central veranda  followed by an excellent three-course dinner taken care of by chef Patrick Van Herck.

Survivors dinner