Shanghai-based design firm Neri&Hu has renovated the Shanghai Theatre to maintain its function with a modern yet functional design
The primary design challenge for the firm was to recall the clarity and unity of the historic building in all its grandeur, while creating architecture that would not only be relevant today, but have the potential to become a lasting and significant landmark in modern Shanghai.
Occupying the site of a former theater dating from the 1930s, the existing building had undergone a series of renovations over the decades, during which much of the original character and architectural detail had been stripped away. The resulting building had become a pastiche of various styles and programmatic uses.
Drawing inspiration from theatrical acts, the carved spaces of the interior and exterior atriums were conceptualised as series of dramatic scenes. From the street, the building reads as a heavy stone volume hovering just above ground level. Lodged firmly between its neighbours, it is encased entirely in stone — the upper two floors forego any outwardly visible openings in favour of vertically-carved apertures.
To guide theatergoers into the building, fluted bronze walls — reminiscent of a theatre curtain cloaking the drama of the main stage behind it — provide a sense of weightlessness in contrast to the heaviness of the stone above.
The entry and ticketing area are recessed back from the pedestrian walkway in order to create a covered plaza which is not only a shelter from the elements, but gives public space back to the street and begins to blur the boundaries of public and private.