Steven Chilton Architects reveal mind-bending Puzzle Ball Theatre

by Andrew Manns | 19 Nov 2018

Steven Chilton Architects (SCA) have unveiled the first set of renderings for their mesmerising Puzzle Ball Theatre in Guangzhou, China.

The 2,000-seat conceptual structure, which – if constructed – would serve as a venue for performances by Belgian drama company Dragone, is inspired by Chinese puzzle balls.

These objects, which often appeared in Victorian-era cabinets of curiosities, are made from a single block of ivory and feature intricate tracery and imaginative motifs.

Unlike the original puzzle balls, however, SCA’s building features a facade of spiralling vortices and uses materials like tubular steel, wood, aluminum, and glass-reinforced concrete (GRC).

In a statement, SCA – which was assisted by collaborators Buro Happold Engineering and Wanda Cultural Tourism Planning & Research Institute – said they wanted to develop an approach that would allow them to "capture the complexity and differential porosity that is a characteristic of real puzzle balls".

Speaking on the design process, Steve Chilton, founding partner at SCA told CLAD: "The program and budget constraints required us to develop optimisation techniques that resulted in a geometry and aesthetic that surpassed our initial studies, enabling us to achieve an unconstrained repetition of unit size and shape.

"It was interesting and a little counterintuitive to discover that the discipline of finding an approach that used less unique elements and actually produced more interesting results."

Steven Chilton  Puzzle Ball  China 
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Steven Chilton Architects reveal mind-bending Puzzle Ball Theatre
Steven Chilton Architects (SCA) have unveiled the first set of renderings for their mesmerising Puzzle Ball Theatre in Guangzhou, China.