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Designs for Shenzhen's dramatic new waterfront opera house have been revealed

Tim Gibson

29 March 2021

ATELIERS JEAN NOUVEL has been revealed as the winner of an international competition to design a new waterfront opera house for the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The studio, headed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, submitted plans for an immense 220,000 square-metre landmark building topped by a dramatic curving roof.

Inside will be a 2,300-seat opera hall, a 1,800-seat concert theatre and an 800-seat venue for operettas.

There will also be a theatre with 400 seats, cultural spaces for the public and backstage areas including a production centre, apartments for performers and offices.

Above: The opera house carries elements of the sea into its design. Image courtesy of Ateliers Jean Nouvel.

The opera house’s main auditorium will be highly prominent throughout the building and serve as an architectural focal point.

The studio has taken advantage of the site’s location on the Shekou Peninsula overlooking Shenzhen Bay and made the building’s form imitate the fluidity of the sea.

This idea is carried inside the opera house as well, with the interiors made from materials such as mother-of-pearl, otherwise known as nacre, a luminous material sourced from the shells of molluscs.

The building as a whole will celebrate the city’s rich history as a fishing village and prominent port.

"Shenzhen has always been in harmony with the South China Sea," Nouvel has said in a press release.

"The Opera House will welcome and incorporate the sea. They will bolster each other, bond.

"The arrival of the Opera House will create a long sequence along a coastline that has already been diversified over a stretch more than a kilometre long."

Part of the brief for the design was to ensure that the Opera House would become a centrepiece of a wider masterplan for the city.

Several other new cultural facilities have already been announced, including a science and technology museum designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and a natural history museum conceived by 3XN.

Nouvel founded his studio in 1994 and has a number of other high profile works under construction, including a luxury resort to be carved into the sandstone hills of the Al Ula Desert in Saudi Arabia.


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