MAD’s Yiwu Grand Theater will soon float over China’s Dongyang river
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MAD’s Yiwu Grand Theater will soon float over China’s Dongyang river

Inspired from Chinese junks and ancient vernacular architecture, the winning proposal for Yiwu Grand Theater by MAD Architects is expected to become the cultural heart of the city.

by Zohra Khan Sep 05, 2019

In an international competition for the design of Yiwu Grand Theater in China’s Zhejiang Province, Beijing-based MAD Architects emerged as the winner, defeating four other global architectural firms - Arata Isozaki & Associates, Atelier Christian de Portzamparc, GMP and KDG. The project will be designed as a monument for the Yiwu city that is internationally established for its strong economy as the world’s largest wholesale commodities market.

MAD has designed Yiwu Grand Theater as a floating boat in the Dongyang waters | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
MAD has designed Yiwu Grand Theater as a floating boat in the Dongyang waters Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects

The project’s intent was to focus on the culture to help elevate the city’s soft power and reinforce its identity as a city of trade. Located on the south bank of the scenic Dongyang river, the new theater is visualised as a public space that will connect inhabitants to the waterfront in a new perspective.

With mountains in the distance as its backdrop, and water as its stage, MAD’s design responds to its locale, and appears as a boat floating on the river. A striking contrast to the context, which largely comprises of high-rise steel and glass clad buildings, the winning proposal appears like a beacon warmly illuminating the surroundings.

The façade is formed by layering of glass sails in an ethereal composition | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
The façade is formed by layering of glass sails in an ethereal composition Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects

The building’s outer aesthetics are formed by a layering of glass sails, reminiscent of the Chinese junks that once transported goods across the waters. The sinuous yet subtle curves of these sails echo the Jiangnan-style eaves of the ancient vernacular architecture that is typical of the region. The glass, with its smooth textures of a thin, silky fabric, renders an impressive lightness and a dynamic rhythm to the building’s volume that makes it appear as if it is blowing in the wind. Making for a romantic atmosphere, this outer façade creates a protective canopy that resonates with the river.  

A view of the public plaza with stepped green terraces in the background | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
A view of the public plaza with stepped green terraces in the background Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects

MAD Architects’ proposal combines unique avenues for public interaction within the design scheme. A natural immersive exterior is formed by a ginormous amphitheater and an open plaza that extends into the water on the site’s southern edge. A series of stepped green terraces offer elevated views of the alluring context along with areas for quiet contemplation. The various internal programmes include a grand theater (1600 seats), a medium theater (1200 seats), various multi-functional rooms, and an international conference centre with a 2000-person capacity.

Masterplan | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
Masterplan Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects

The proposal accounts for sustainability and sensitive energy conservation through passive solar design. “The semi-transparent glass curtain wall has been developed to not only act as a shading system, but to also optimise the use of natural light within the indoor public spaces, forming a solar greenhouse effect in the winter. In the summer, it serves as the ventilation system, enhancing airflow circulation inside and outside of the building,” explained the architectural firm.

  • Lightness and transparency permeate all spaces within the design | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
    Lightness and transparency permeate all spaces within the design Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects
  • | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
    A grandiose theatre Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects

While an immersive experience awaits the visitors inside the theatre, their accessibility to the site has been designed to avoid any incoherence. Verdant foot-over bridges from the north allow pedestrians to meander along the water and savour views of the theatre, the waterfront, and the larger city as they approach the building. Vehicular transportation, however, is designed at the south shore, quite a distance from the pedestrian entry.

Designed to establish itself as the cultural heart of the city, the Yiwu Grand Theater will attract visitors from the world over. Its construction is expected to begin in 2020.

  • The theatre is designed to connect people of the city to its waterfront | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
    The theatre is designed to connect people of the city to its waterfront Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects
  • The structure is covered with a canopy of light fabric-like glass sails | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
    The structure is covered with a canopy of light fabric-like glass sails Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects
  • First floor plan | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
    First floor plan Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects
  • Second floor plan | Yiwu Grand Theater | MAD Architects | STIR
    Second floor plan Image Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects

Project Details

Name of the project: Yiwu Grand Theater
Location: Yiwu, China
Clients: Administration Committee of Silk Road New District of Yiwu; Culture, Broadcasting & Television, Tourism and Sports Bureau of Yiwu; Yiwu City Construction Investment Group Limited
Area:
Site area: 47,000 sqm
Building area: 95,290 sqm (ground: 48,942 sqm; underground: 46,348 sqm)
Architect: MAD Architects
Principal partners-in-charge: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano
Associate partners-in-charge: Fu Changrui, Liu Huiying
Design Team: Zhu Yuhao, Zheng Chengwen, Kazushi Miyamoto, Shang Li, Ma Yin, Jordan Demer, Guo Wenjia, Zhu Zixiao

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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