In central China, two and a half hours from bustling Shanghai by plane, is Chongqing, a megalopolis of skyscrapers void of any particular quality, where progress is measured by the speed of demolition and new construction. Where the Jialing River flows into the Yangtze (Blue River), in the Jiangbei business district, a new landmark for the city has been built with the intention of providing citizens with a new symbol. The Grand Theatre, designed by Gmp and financed by the financial district in which it is located, rises from a stone platform over 60 metres into the sky on a 100,000 square metre lot, towering over the city. A stepped platform extends toward the point at which the two rivers flow together to offer up the new building as a temple saluting passing boats and seeing them off. The aggressive look of the building’s volumes, inspired by the profile of a ship, is mitigated as we climb the steps on the river bank, revealing a completely translucent glass structure. Sensitive to cycles of light and dark and changing weather conditions, this skin made up of glass structural modules changes in turn to restore an ever-changing view of the building on the inside.
The big entrance hall is located on the ground floor, but it is necessary to go up to the first floor to access the two theatre halls where performances are held, located along the building's longitudinal axis. The grand hall with 1744 seats and the medium hall, with 873, face toward one another so that the tall scenery towers, 64 m and 52 m high, occupy the centre of the building, towering upwards like the smokestacks of a ship. The theatres’ foyers, on the first level, are at either end of the building, at the prow and stern of the “ship”. Every structural element and detail of the architecture takes on colossal proportions: the sequence of staircases rising from the ground floor to the theatre halls and the galleries, and the V-shaped pillars of the entrance hall.On the outside, the unconventional facades of translucent glass are compact and imposing, arranged in multiple juxtaposed volumes. Only at the entrances on the building’s eastern and western ends do they break up into a rhythmic design of opacities and transparencies, which by night, when the interiors are lit up, reveals the foyers with their parquet flooring and the dramatic lighting, a prelude to the richness of the theatre halls.The large platform on which the theatre is built, with its many access points, not only provides free space around the building from which to admire it, but is a public plaza for citizens to enjoy. Here as in classical Greece, the theatre may play a social role, as a tool for educating the community, and its strong architectural identity also makes it a strong visual symbol around which the city will grow.
by Mara Corradi
Design: gmp – von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects
Client: Chongqing Jiangbeizui Central Business District Development & Investment Co. Ltd.
Location: Chongqing, Jiangbei District (China)
Competition project: Meinhard von Gerkan with Klaus Lenz
Partner: Nikolaus Goetze
Project Manager: Volkmar Sievers
Design team: Heiko Thiess, Monika van Vught, Robert Friedrichs, Matthias Ismael, Tobias Jortzick, Dominik Reh, Christian Dahle, Julia Gronbach
Construction team: Kerstin Steinfatt, Nils Dethlefs, Knut Maass, Zhu Huan, Jan Stolte, Li Zhenghao, Ren Yunping
Chinese partner: ECADI
Static/Technical equipment: East China Architectural Design & Research Institute Co., Ltd.
Acoustics: Muller BBM GmbH
Scenery: Kunkel Consulting International GmbH
Lighting design: agLicht, Gesellschaft beratender Ingenieure fur Lichtplanung b.R.
Landscape architects: Breimann & Bruun
Gross useful surface area: 100,000 m2
Competition date: 2004
Project start date: January 2005
Start of work: June 2005
Completion of work: June 2009
Cement and glass structures
Photographs: ©Hans Georg Esch