Guangzhou Opera House

Architect: Zaha Hadid
Location: Guangzhou, China

guanzhou opera house

Photography by Virgile Simon Bertrand

According to Chinese legend, the creator of human life was Nü-Kua, a goddess who was part woman, part dragon. Alone on earth, the dragon goddess formed humans out of mud and gave them life with her breath. In Guangzhou, China, the vision of another ‘formidable woman’ has taken shape on the banks of the Pearl River.

Now surrounded by a booming urban metropolis, UK architect Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House rose from a rural agricultural centre. Since 2005, the city has grown around the iconic opera house, now stretching to the horizon in all directions. At a price tag of £65m, the 70,000m2 performing arts venue is the largest in south China and the third largest in the country.

Guangzhou Opera House

The striking, granite-covered structure sits as a centerpiece, lying like pebbles at the edge of a stream, smoothed by erosion. Its unique twin-boulder design enhances the city by opening it into the Pearl River, unifying the adjacent cultural buildings with the towers of international finance in Guangzhou’s Zhujiang new town.

The larger of the two ‘pebbles’ is covered in grey granite and contains the opera house, while its sister structure shadows the larger building as a black granite-clad extension of the main performance center. The darker stone houses a black-box theatre.

Guangzhou Opera House

Photography by Virgile Simon Bertrand

Inspired by the movement of the neighboring river, the exterior emulates concepts of a natural landscape and the fascinating interplay between architecture and nature, engaging with the principles of erosion, geology and topography. Natural light invades the interior through a crisscross of irregular glass cages stretching fluidly across the edifice.

*This is an abridged version of an article from de magazine (Issue 22 Spring 2011). Click here to read the full feature.

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