French Architect Paul Andreu imagined China’s National Grand-Theater as a cultural Island rising from its surrounding water.
The project is located at the heart of Beijing along the Chang’An Avenue neighboring the people’s assembly at around 1500 ft. (500m) from the Forbidden City. The decision to build this project in a location that gathers numerous historic and symbolic buildings demonstrates the emphasis that the authorities allocate to culture and the performance Art and their importance to the image of Modern China.
Surrounded by a large pool, the building seems to emerge like an island in the middle a lake. The external shell is an impressive ellipsoid 151 ft (46 m) high, measuring (690 ft) 213 m at the large axis, 472 ft (144 m) at the small axis. The shell is covered with in part with titanium cladding and the other part in glass.
The National Grand-Theater comprises three performance halls; a 2416-seat opera Hall, a 2017-seat concert hall, and a 1040-seat theater. It also includes exhibition spaces that are opened to the public.
The visitors access the building through a transparent gallery 180ft (60m) long, located under the water basin. It leaves the external shape of the building intact. The Architect intended this gallery as a transitional passage that transports the user from the realities of daily lives into a new environment, a world of dreams and fantasy.
At the core of the design concept lies the visitor’s experience. Throughout the project the visitor enjoys the interplay of passages and crossings, taking you through different spaces with different identities, a careful interaction between solid and transparent enclosures, of light and shadow gives the building its special character.
There is a great emphasis on the public space inside the building. It is conceived as an urban district with different spaces having different identities, revealing themselves progressively; streets, squares, commercial zones, restaurants, rest areas etc.
These spaces give a character of openness to the project and transform this cultural landmark into a popular attraction rather than an elitist gathering.
The performance halls open up to the public space. The Architect distributed their location throughout the project. It helped with the fluidity of the circulation. The opera is considered the most important element of the project and gets located at the center of the project, with each of the concert hall and theater on one of its sides.
To access the performance halls, visitors go through transitional spaces that enhance their spatial experience. The Opera hall is covered with a shiny metal fabric. Opaque around walls and dark rooms, it becomes partially transparent around lit rooms, revealing their content as if from a distance. Spectators go into the opera hall through a vertical space. They can still see the outside through the metal fabric, but it feels distant. The intent is to have them perceptually disconnect from the outside as they enter the virtual world of the show they are about to see.
The progressive appearance of the National Grand-Theater is a bold statement of modernity. The purity of the geometric form helps it integrate in its environment and respects the Historic buildings around it. Opening the project to the public and creating cultural activities around the performance halls brings a lot of vitality to the project in will definitely help it become a decisive city landmark.
Project completed in 2007
Area: 1,600,000 sqft (149,500 m2)
Cost: $500 M (€364 M)
Designed by: Paul Andreu Architect associated with ADPi and BIAD
Client: The Grand National Theater Committee
Project Management: Felipe Starling
Principal Architect: François Tamisier
Acoustics: M. Vian (CSTB)
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