Guangzhou Opera House by Zaha Hadid Architects

By: Roedah Mansour

Architect Team: Zaha Hadid Architects
Photographer: Iwan Baan 
Project Director: Woody K.T. Yao and Patrik Schumacher
Project Leader: Simon Yu
Project Team: Jason Guo, Yang Jingwen, Long Jiang, Ta-Kang Hsu, Yi-Ching Liu, Zhi Wang, Christine Chow, Cyril Shing, Filippo Innocenti, Lourdes Sanchez, Hinki Kwong, Junkai Jiang
Structural Engineering: SHTK (Shanghai, China); Guangzhou Pearl River Foreign Investment Architectural Designing Institute
Theater Consultants: ENFI (Beijing, China)
Lighting Consultant: Beijing Light & View (Beijing, China)
Project Management: Guangzhou Municipal Construction Group Co. Ltd. (Guangzhou, China)
Building Services: Guangzhou Pearl River Foreign Investment Architectural Designing Institute (Guangzhou, China)
Acoustic Consultants: Marshall Day Acoustics (Melbourne, Australia)
Construction Management: Guangzhou Construction Engineering Supervision Co. Ltd. (Guangzhou, China)
Main Contractor: China Construction Third Engineering Bureau Co. Ltd. (Guangdong, China)
Location: Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
Project Year: 2010

The queen of the curve pulled off the impossible yet again in 2010. Time and time again, she broke the scene and inspired artists; she inspired engineers; she pushed innovation in computing for architecture, art with geometry and daring standard. We mourn the loss of Zaha Hadid, whose architectural vision and wave form never was broken, who challenged the norm and provoked critics, exciting design connoisseurs and pushing forward new architects, whose team designed and built the Guangzhou Opera House. But we will forever celebrate her innovative work. Hadid defied gravity in her work by treating the ground as a plane that hit the ground vertically, that had spaces folding and sloping and wrapping around other spaces, creating an esoteric architectural style that was both evocative and influential. 

Zaha Hadid Architects always work to create transformative spaces that work in synchronicity with their surroundings. Because the Guangzhou Opera House, cultural development center of the city, is on a riverside plot, it sits in harmony with the waters like "pebbles in a stream smoothed by erosion. Its unique twin-boulder design enhances the city by opening it to the Pearl River, unifying the adjacent cultural buildings with the towers of international finance in Guangzhou’s Zhujiang new town," the team explained. The design started out with concepts of natural landscapes with heavy interplay between the natural setting and architecture. The architects noted that that they had to engage with principles of erosion, geology and topography.

"The 1,800-seat auditorium of the Opera House houses the very latest acoustic technology, and the smaller 400-seat multifunction hall is designed for performance art, opera and concerts in the round." What is most notable about the Opera House is how folding lines are what define different areas within it, "creating dramatic interior and exterior canyons for circulation, lobbies and cafes, and allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the building." The design of the Opera House is one of many unique explorations of contextual urban relationships, entwining cultural traditions of the area's history with the innovative ambition of the future. 

Guangzhou's Opera House has been touted the catalyst for the expansion of the city's cultural facilities, including museums, libraries and an archive. It has become the biggest performing arts center in all of Southern China and is of the biggest theater houses in the country. Its freestanding concrete auditorium set within exposed granite and glass-clad steel was praised by architectural critic Jonathan Glancey in The Guardian when he called it both highly theatrical and insistently subtle. The drama of the structure was what also inspired fashion designer Vivienne Tam's autumn collection in 2010.