Technogym
Technogym
Technogym

Culture

Wuxi Show Theatre

Nature has inspired this dramatic theatre in southern China, finds Andrew Manns


London based practice Steven Chilton Architects (SCA) were inspired by one of China’s largest bamboo forest in the design of the 2,000-person capacity Wuxi Show Theatre in Wuxi, China.

The theatre uses tightly packed white columns – inspired by the bamboo forest in the Sea of Bamboo national park in Yixing – and a canopy made from gold anodised aluminium louvers – to simulate the appearance of dense undergrowth.

According to SCA, at night the “building envelope is illuminated from below, becoming an ethereal beacon, glimpsed between the forest of ‘bamboo’ columns, drawing spectators and audiences in from across the lake and surrounding development.”

Set to open in 2019, the building will accommodate The House of Dancing Water, a water show by Belgian stage director Franco Dragone.

Steven Chilton speaks to CLAD about the inspirations behind the design.

What do you see as the most structurally challenging aspect of the Wuxi Theatre project?
Our primary goal was to keep the columns as slender as possible; the aesthetic success of the project would be severely compromised if we failed in this regard.

We set out to fully support the shade canopy with the forest of columns, however, due to time constraints with the build, it became necessary for it to be largely self-supporting. Consequently, the columns are not required to work as hard, which has allowed us to reduce their diameter to 300mm – something of an achievement given they are 33m in length.

Can you tell us more about how the team employed ‘swarm intelligence’ for this project?
To choose the final columns distribution we had to consider many factors, including the minimum free distance needed for each column, the ground floor boundaries, security routes and our desire to maximise the covering effect of the facade behind.

Due to the complexity of the problem we choose to code an emergent multi-agent system that would allow us to optimise all these input parameters. Starting from Craig Reynolds` Boids simulation we added some boundary constraints in order to respect the usable area requested and guarantee the creation of safe routes.

Then we added a specific feature to optimise the general distribution and increase the overall covering effect of the columns. For each simulation frame, the system evaluates the visual permeability and each agent moves the associated column with the goal of reducing this global parameter. 

Why did you decide to use white columns? 
Our client is interested in creating architecture with a broad appeal and is attracted to concepts that embody recognisable elements of local culture. Our challenge, as architects interested in modern, minimalist, generative design, has been to find an approach that delivers the essence of a local cultural reference without mimicking it.

We purposefully seek to avoid designing in the mannered, literal sense, instead favouring an approach to materials and structure that seeks to identify geometries and combinations that hold the potential to abstractly evoke the central theme. This generative approach to design enables us to build in factors such as structural efficiency, repetition of nodal geometry and the reduction of material waste.

In the best instances, it leads to abstract effects that are more resonant with the central theme because we employed these various optimisations.

The distribution and orientation of the louvres in the shade canopy are a good example of this. The organic sense of randomness we’ve achieved is largely the result of a variety of parameters that were fed into the algorithm to maximise material efficiency and the distribution of reflected light and to ensure year-round shade over the curtain wall.

What do you expect to be the most impressive element of the theatre?
We hope visitors and users will enjoy the experience of moving through the forest of columns and will consciously (or unconsciously) appreciate the simplicity and efficiency of the architecture that surrounds them.

Certainly, at night, the theatre should be a magical place to be. We’ve taken a simple approach to the lighting whereby the columns are mostly backlit. We hope this will give the structure an iridescent, lantern-like quality.

THE TEAM

Building Façade and Canopies Architect: Steven Chilton Architects

Client: Sunac China Holdings Ltd.

Theatre Consultant: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

Show Design: Dragone

LDI: Tongji Architectural Design

Bamboo Concept: Steven Chilton at Stufish

Canopies Concept Engineer: Buro Happold Engineering

Gallery
Click on an image to open the image gallery
company profile
Company profile: TLEE Spas + Wellness
TLEE Spas + Wellness is a globally recognised spa design and consulting firm created in 2010 by Tracy Lee.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
Manuelle Gautrand
"The cities where you have good cultural buildings and facilities – it’s a way for people to mix, to share the city in a much deeper way"

The French architect and winner of the 2017 European Prize for Architecture tells us why she is determined to surprise

Andreas Nygaard
"Should a thousand year wave occur, you’ll be completely safe"

A sneak preview of one of the world’s largest underwater restaurants

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Local, natural materials have been used to create an organic, calming feel. Views of the surroundings take centre stage
"Wellness embraces the entire holiday experience"

The design of the newly-opened Lefay Resort and Spa Dolomitti in Italy aims to celebrate and protect its spectacular surroundings

Mahdavi designed pastel interiors for the recently opened Laduree store and cafe in Tokyo
After working for Christian Liaigre in Paris, Mahdavi launched her practice in 1999
"I never thought it was a talent. I just did it very naturally, without thinking"

The ‘queen of colour’ on her nomadic childhood, being fearless and choosing the exact right shade of pink for the Sketch Gallery restaurant

Thomas Christoffersen: From BIG intern to BIG partner - Thomas Christoffersen's journey
Thomas Christoffersen
"We were rooted in the traditions of Danish design, but inspired by what was happening elsewhere."

On the journey from being Bjarke Ingels' first intern to BIG partner

features
"It would be great if today’s men left as a legacy for the future some architectural and humanistic monuments for the next hundred, three hundred, one thousand years"

BrunelloCucinelli has madehisfortune from cashmere and has used hiswealthto restoreandrevive theItalian hamlet he callshome. Wefindout more

Beckham signed for MLS franchise LA Galaxy a decade ago
Beckham has purchased the land he needs for a stadium
"Now’s the time for MLS to move forward in helping us deliver the soccer club that Miami has been waiting for"

Miami soccer stadium land sale gets approval

An elevator motor from the Twin Towers
"We set out by saying that our intention was to reflect the present with the Memorial Pavilion, whereas the two waterfalls going into the footprints of the two towers reflect the past"

Creating the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York involved meticulous planning. Its director Alice Greenwald tells us more

cladkit product news
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
cladkit product news
Eden project uses drones to spell out climate change warning
Magali Robathan
Almost 300 drones were used to signal an environmental message above the Eden Project’s biomes, during the UN Climate Change ...
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
cladkit product news
Jaffe Holden helps bring Academy Museum of Motion Pictures alive
Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics for the Academy Museum
Magali Robathan
Acoustical consulting firm Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics and audio/video design services for the recently opened Academy Museum of Motion ...
Fabio Alemanno Design uses elegant semi-precious stones to create memorable spa experiences
Alemanno believes the stones are well-placed in the spa environment thanks to their capacity to positively support physical and mental health
Megan Whitby
Fabio Alemanno Design has expanded its collection with semi-precious stones to enhance spas, wellness facilities, hotels and private residences. The ...
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
Technogym
Technogym