Harbin Opera House by MAD Architects

by Suzanne Miao on Feb 29, 2016 in Architecture
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Photo by  Hufton+Crow

Photo by Hufton+Crow

Sitting within the Harbin wetlands, the new Opera House was designed by MAD Architects' Ma Yansong, a previous winner at Perspective's 40 Under 40 Awards, as a direct response to the force and spirit of the city's untamed wilderness

In 2010, MAD Architects, founded by Ma Yansong, won an international open competition for Harbin Cultural Island, a masterplan for an opera house, a cultural centre, and the surrounding wetland landscape along Harbin's Songhua River. The sinuous opera house is the focal point of the Cultural Island, occupying a building area of approximately 850,000 sq-ft of the site's 444 acres.

Photo by Adam Mork

Photo by Adam Mork

Embedded within Harbin's wetlands, the Harbin Opera House was designed in response to the force and spirit of the northern city's untamed wilderness and frigid climate. Appearing as if sculpted by wind and water, the building seamlessly blends in with nature and the topography — a transfusion of local identity, art, and culture. "We envision Harbin Opera House as a cultural centre of the future — a tremendous performance venue, as well as a dramatic public space that embodies the integration of humans, art and the city's identity, while synergistically blending with the surrounding nature," says Ma.

Photo by Adam Mork

Photo by Adam Mork

On the exterior, the architecture references the undulating landscape in which it is set. The resulting curvilinear façade composed of smooth white aluminium panels becomes the poetry of edge and surface, softness and sharpness. The journey begins upon crossing the bridge onto Harbin Cultural Island, where the serpentine architectural mass wraps a large public plaza, and during winter months, appears to melt into the snowy winter environment.

This is an excerpt from the "Sculpted by Wind and Water” article from the March 2016 issue of Perspective magazine.

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