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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 
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
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The primary structure – a twin-layered dome – was inspired by Chinese puzzle balls and features a number of concentric circles. / Courtesy of Steven Chilton Architects
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