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Henning Larsen, Hangzhou Yuhang Opera, China

A Polygonal Shard of Ice: Hangzhou Yuhang Opera by Henning Larsen

The busy metropolis Hangzhou is home to the rapidly growing district of Yuhang, where a new cultural centre with a comprehensive outdoor design has been created. A promenade meanders around East Lake, leading through small parks and a traditional Chinese water garden. On the outer edge of the edge, there is a train station that makes travel easier, even for visitors from far away. 

Despite the urban environment, the opera house stands in a green space directly on the water. It is a tranquil place of art and culture in the middle of a city with 20 million inhabitants. As a dominant structure in the urban landscape, the building can be seen from afar and represents a new element in Hangzhou’s skyline. Like a cliff, the sleek shape rises above the water; the reflection makes its dimensions seem even larger.

The opera house consists of two main spaces: a hall with 1,400 seats and a black box theatre with space for up to 500 people. One entire side of the black box theatre can be opened up; this enlarges the space to the outdoors and offers room for up to 10,000 guests. The adaptability of these spaces enables various uses in summer and winter alike.

The spacious lobby benefits from the fragmented lakeward façade, which creates a varied play of light and shade inside. As in many other recent concert buildings, the vaulted body of the auditorium is in the middle of the lobby, which opens upwards. At the Hangzhou Yuhang Opera, this feature asserts itself in a gleaming gold-yellow. Visitors enter the auditorium above the rows of seating. Terraced balconies are layered to the sides; these are reminiscent of simplified vineyards. Wooden slats cover the surfaces to improve the acoustics in the hall.

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