People have been coming to Pula Arena to be entertained for a long time… a very long time! Located in the Croatian city of the same name, this majestic venue was built by the Romans over 2,000 years ago.
Standing as a symbol of Roman power and engineering skills, the massive structure with its
29.4-meter (96.5-feet) exterior limestone walls, each with 72 arches on the two lower levels, was meant to inspire admiration. Something it still does today, as one of the world’s six largest surviving Roman arenas.
In its heyday, the arena held 23,000 spectators. Today it’s capacity is a more modest 5,000. Nevertheless, it still hosts performances by renowned artists from Elton John, to Andrea Bocelli, thanks to its idyllic setting off the Adriatic and its stunning architectural features, both of which also make it stand out as a special place for the highly-accomplished Slovenian designer Crt Birsa.
The owner Blackout Lighting Design, Birsa shared his impressions of this unforgettable venue with us.
When did you first encounter Pula Arena?
“As I live in the neighboring country, I was aware of this legendary venue for years, even when I still did not know that I was going to become a Lighting designer. I had always had respect for this enormous ancient structure.”
What made it special to you?
“Well, this was Roman venue and in the past, the gladiators were fighting each other. It has brought joy to the people 2000 years ago and today it has not lost its role. It brings joy to the people with shows and events, just not so bloody anymore!”
Who was your client on your fist project there?
“My first show there was for a Slovenian rental company and we did the opening ceremonies of Dimensions and Outlook festivals in August 2014. I have been back at least 14 times since then, mostly for Dimensions and Outlook festivals, but the craziest shows there were with 2CELLOS and Dubioza Kolektiv.”
Are there any special challenges in lighting Pula Arena?
“There are not so many special challenges in lighting the venue, but there are challenges such as getting all the gear inside and preparing the show. As it is an open air venue and most of the shows there happen in the summer. You can’t imagine the heat that the sun generates inside these walls.
“So, most of the work is usually done when the sun is out of the picture, as well as programming, which usually takes until sunrise. From this point of view, I quite hate this venue, as I don’t remember when I was last rested doing a show there! The second challenge is cross loading all the equipment from big trucks on to smaller ones, as only they can fit the entrance of the venue. As a result, load in and load out are usually very time consuming and hard to do.”
Still, the venue holds a special place in your heart, why?
“The venue has a high wall all around that still stands today. It is a perfect canvas for lighting the walls with strong city color lights or projecting the video content on it. But the best shows there are the ones without the actual stage roof, so we can see all the back wall and the venue shines in all its beauty.”