MAD Architects' twisting, theatrical Harbin Opera House opens in China

by Kim Megson | 17 Dec 2015

A striking, sinuous opera house designed by Beijing studio MAD Architects has opened in the northern Chinese city of Harbin.

Located within the wetlands surrounding the Songhua River, the Harbin Opera House has been designed as a response to the region’s untamed wilderness and chilly climate. The building’s smooth white aluminium walls twist and turn as if sculpted by the water and wind, blending into the surrounding environment and transfusing the local identity with art and culture. Hidden pathways carved into the facade allow visitors to ascend the structure as if climbing a mountain.

The opera house occupies a building area of approximately 850,000sq ft (7,900sq m). Inside, large transparent glass walls span the lobby, visually connecting the curvilinear interior with the sweeping exterior. Above, a supported crystalline ceiling comprises of smooth and angular glass pyramids, referencing the snow and ice that covers the region in winter and allowing natural light to enter the lobby.

A swooping wooden staircase takes visitors from the lobby to the 1,600-capacity grand theatre, sculpted from Manchurian Ash wood, and a smaller venue for audiences of 400. At the top of the building, both ticketholders and members of the public can access an open rooftop performance space with panoramic views of the city’s skyline and wetlands.

“We envision Harbin Opera House as a cultural centre of the future – a tremendous performance venue, as well as a dramatic public space that embodies the integration of human, art and the city identity, while synergistically blending with the surrounding nature,” said Ma Yansong, founding principal of MAD Architects.

The opera house is the first project MAD have designed for the wider Harbin Cultural Island; a masterplan that also includes a cultural centre and large public plaza.

In 2013, the studio – who are based in Beijing – finished work on another museum in Harbin; the China Wood Sculpture Museum. Located in a densely-populated urban area, the 200m (656ft) long building is sheathed in twisting metal.

MAD are currently working on the Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago; a legacy project being developed by film director George Lucas.

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A striking, sinuous opera house designed by Beijing studio MAD Architects has opened in the northern Chinese city of Harbin. Located within the wetlands surrounding the Songhua River, the Harbin Opera House has been designed as a response to the region’s untamed wilderness and chilly climate. The building’s smooth white aluminium walls twist and turn as if sculpted by the water and wind, blending into the surrounding environment and transfusing
CLD,VAT,HAM,AAC,PRO,ARC,DES
Smooth and angular glass pyramids reference the snow and ice that cover the region in winter / Adam Mørk
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