by STIRworldSep 19, 2020
On the south of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Clear Water Bay campus and surrounded by pockets of orthogonal buildings, lie the Shaw Auditorium, recently completed by Scandinavian firm Henning Larsen. The 12,800 sqm educational architecture features a distinct aesthetic that makes it stand out in its context: three white elliptical rings placed rhythmically one over the other, and separated by vertical glazed surfaces.
Seated on an elevated site, the building as per Henning Larsen has no front or back – “it is open and welcoming on all sides”. The design followed the premise of creating a 'living room' by combining a highly flexible, acoustically sophisticated auditorium with bright, generous social spaces. Built on a social focus for the space to become a distinguisher not only for the students but also as an international venue in the city, a variety of informal meeting areas are found in the project.
The building's auditorium features enough and equally adaptable spaces to turn the venue appropriate for live orchestra, amplified concerts, talks, gala dinners, and exhibitions. A proscenium can be lowered to frame the stage for theatre and ballet; and the rectilinear plan brings the audience close to the performers, creating an intimate atmosphere and optimising acoustics. The raked seating can be configured to fit 840 or 1,300 seats, or stored to provide an open surface for conferences, open days and exhibitions. Its curved walls can also function as a 360-degree projection screen, enabling immersive audio-visual experiences.
The elliptical form of the Shaw Auditorium directs a natural pedestrian flow. Deep cantilevers alluding to the form of local vernacular colonnades and canopies create shade and shelter for the passing public. “This passive shading,” the firm says, “is part of a BEAM Platinum environmental strategy – an impressive achievement for a performance venue, given the fluctuating patterns of use and cooling demands.” Other material features include a bamboo clad outer wall of the auditorium and Norwegian wood employed in acoustic panels.
Claude Godefroy, Partner and Design Director at Henning Larsen, shares in a press release, "The challenges of the project were functional and symbolic. The auditorium had to accommodate all these different activities, from seated concerts to gala dinners, and the acoustics had to be pitch-perfect each time. In that sense, it’s a really flexible ‘white box’ space.” He continues, “The architecture also had to express its role as the heart of the cultural and artistic life of the campus. Finally, there’s the climatic response – the deep overhangs, which shelter pedestrians, the use of bamboo…”
Commissioned as a result of winning an international competition which was held in 2015, the construction of the Shaw Auditorium started in 2019 and the facility opened to the public on November 17, 2021, marking the university’s 30th anniversary.