MAD Architects’ Poetic and Fluid-formed Harbin Opera House Opens in China

Along the Songhua River and surrounded by the wetland landscape of Harbin, Beijing-based MAD Architects have revealed their design of the dynamic opera house in the northern Chinese city. The completion marks the end of the five year construction which sees the building becoming a focal point of the cultural island.

Embedded into the landscape, the form of the building evokes a response to the location’s natural elements. Appearing as if it was sculpted by the wind and water, the curvilinear and fluid structure – wrapped in smooth white aluminum panels – instills a poetic yet robust character. Situated on an area of 850,000 square feet, the undulating architectural mass hosts a grand and small theater which wraps a large public plaza.

Inside, the sculptural quality continues with the interiors clad in a combination of glass and timber. Soaring above the bright atrium, a lightweight diagrid structure supports a crystalline glass curtain wall comprised of transparent pyramids. The surface alternates between smooth and faceted – referencing the billowing snow and ice of the frigid climate.

The main room – the Grand Theater – is clad in rich Manchurian ash wood, emulating a timber mass that has been gently eroded away. The timber walls climb up the main stage, wrapping the main stage and illuminated by the skylights. A combination of careful detailing and sensitivity to the local identity, art and culture of Harbin have inherently cultivated the organic and sculptural form of the opera house which will take its visitors on an architectural and theatrical journey.