Heatherwick Studio’s Hainan Performance Art Centre to emerge as colourful volcanoes

Thomas Heatherwick led Heatherwick Studio unveils visuals for Hainan Performing Art Centre in China, drawing on the island's volcanic landscape and Hainanese opera costumes.

by STIRworldPublished on : May 12, 2022

English designer and architect Thomas Heatherwick's eponymous office Heatherwick Studio has revealed a first glimpse into their design of a tropical opera house, set to rise within the volcanic landscape of the island province of Hainan, at the southernmost point of China. A competition brief conducted by Haikou Tourism & Culture Investment Holding Group called for a new cultural landmark with a top-tier performing arts centre, to which the English architect's winning entry responded with a colourful, larger-than-life cluster of volcanic forms that will host an opera house, a concert hall and a theatre. These three performance spaces unite to become a focal point for the large scale masterplan for the new Jiangdong cultural quarter, just east of the historic city centre.

The volcanic wetlands site as well as the costumes and colours of Hainanese Opera inspire the design of the performance arts centre | Hainan Performing Arts Centre by Heatherwick Studio | STIRworld
The volcanic wetlands site as well as the costumes and colours of Hainanese Opera inspire the design of the performance arts centre Image: Courtesy of Devisual

This becomes the first opera house or music venue designed by Heatherwick Studio, and construction of the main building is planned to begin towards the end of 2022. The shared renders reveal the building emerging from a rectangular site, as a cluster of three sculptural volcano-like cones clad in multi-hued rectangular tiles, with an undulating roof which symbolises its colourful programme of movement, creativity and arts. The curved roof will also essay as a canopy for various open-air, publicly accessible spaces to become a social hub and a dynamic extension to the city. 

"Our inspiration came from the volcanic landscape and the costumes, colours and movement of Hainanese Opera,” said Eliot Postma, Partner and Group Leader at Heatherwick Studio. Upon completion, the Hainan Performing Arts Centre will have a capacity for 3,800 people and integrate arts, creative, learning, rehearsal and performance spaces. The venue also seeks to stage international productions, ranging from large-scale opera, ballet and musicals to avant-garde drama, fashion and immersive multimedia performances in its imposing landmark architecture.

Main entrance from gallery of the opera house clad in multi-colour rectangular tiles | Hainan Performing Arts Centre by Heatherwick Studio | STIRworld
Main entrance from gallery of the opera house clad in multi-colour rectangular tiles Image: Courtesy of Devisual

“Many opera houses are cut off from their surroundings and only come to life when a performance is on. We wanted to create a space that is an extension of the city and will contribute to life on the street throughout the day. So the canopy shelters a mix of different spaces that form an open-air village, of which the halls are a part. It blends the formality of performance with the informality of island culture, making opera more accessible and offering everyone a space to meet whether you have a ticket or not,” shares Heatherwick Studio.

The design process for the drawing board project involved a team of makers and engineers who incorporated physical and immersive digital modelling alongside rigorous testing and data analysis to come up with the Chinese architecture and its allied elements. Their design responds intelligently to the local ecology and climate, reducing energy consumption and costs while cooling the environment for visitors and users of the space. 

Render of the atrium | Hainan Performing Arts Centre by Heatherwick Studio | STIRworld
Render of the atrium Image: Courtesy of Devisual

Heatherwick Studio recently revealed the first completed phase of their 1,000 Trees development, a new mixed-use, retail project designed as a pair of forest-capped mountains emerging from Shanghai’s waterfront.

Discover more projects by Heatherwick Studio here.

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