Located in the northern Chinese city of Harbin, MAD Architects has unveiled the completed Harbin Opera House
Led by famed architect Ma Yansong, the firm won the competition for Harbin Cultural Island – a masterplan for an Opera House, a Cultural Centre and the surrounding wetland landscape around the Songhua River – in 2010. The Opera House acts the focal point of the Cultural Island, occupying around 850,000 sq-f of the site’s total 444 acres.
Sitting within the Harbin wetlands, the Opera House was designed as a direct response to the force and spirit of the city’s untamed wilderness and fringed climate. The building appears to have been sculpted by wind and water, and blends seamlessly within the topography where it is set.
"We envision Harbin Opera House as a cultural center 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, MAD Architects.
On the exterior, the architecture references the sinuous landscape of the surrounding area with the resulting curvilinear façade being composed of smooth white aluminium panels. The journey begins upon crossing the bridge onto Harbin Cultural Island, where the undulating architectural mass wraps a large public plaza, and during winter months, melts into the snowy winter environment.
In the grand lobby, visitors are greeted by large transparent glass walls that span the space, visually connecting the curvilinear interior with the swooping façade and exterior plaza. A crystalline glass curtain wall sits atop the space with the support of a lightweight diagrid structure. Comprised of glass pyramids, the surface alternates between smooth and faceted, referencing the billowing snow and ice of the local climate. It features a grand theatre that can seat over 1,600 guests and a smaller theatre that can act as a intimate setting for up to 400.