Harbin Opera House. Photo Credit: v2com
The Harbin Opera House, designed by MAD Architects, was selected from six inspiring shortlisted projects. It is the focal point of the Cultural Island in the city of Harbin, featuring two performance venues, a grand theatre that can host over 1,600 patrons and a smaller one for an intimate audience of 400.
Clad in a warm wood veneer, the theatre’s mass emulates a singular wooden block gently eroded away by natural forces to reveal layers of rich history. The wooden form features a procession of winding stairways and viewing openings. Within the theatre, the ripples from the main stage, smoothly folds into the walls, while intimate balconies embrace the centre floor seating. The grand theatre is designed acoustically to cater to both Western and Chinese operas.
The venue’s shape has been designed so that it blends into Harbin’s landscape. Large transparent glass walls spanning the grand lobby, visually connecting the curvilinear interior with the swooping façade and exterior plaza. The height of the entrances have been kept low, while the building stretches the horizontal expanse so it continues into the surrounding landscape. This effect is especially marked during Harbin’s long and cold winter, when the pillowed white aluminium cladding will make the building look like a snowdrift.
Jury member Chris Cotton, Chief Executive of the Royal Albert Hall, said: “I love the idea that you can explore the outside, you can actually go on the roof, it’s interesting and it certainly fulfils originality, innovation, form, function and context.”
Another jury member Gavin Green, co-founder of Charcoalblue, said: “The external form, the interiors and public spaces look extraordinary, you can see there is a very strong narrative, a highly functional building.”