SOUTHEAST ASIA BUILDING20 Dec 2021
Bao’An Performing Arts Centre by Rocco Design Architects
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Hong Kong – Rocco Design Architects Associates’s (RDA) Performing Arts Centre, flagship of the Bao’an Cultural Complex, opened on 17 September 2021 in Shenzhen, China. Overlooking Quanhai Bay and the South China Sea, the building anchors the southern end of the cultural complex. It houses Shenzhen’s first performance hall to be scaled and equipped for international operas, as well as a 600-seat venue and rehearsal facilities. The 28,000-square-metre building will host opera, dance, symphonies, and dramatic performances.

The design takes inspiration from the long and narrow waterfront site. The base of the building is a low-slung, wave-like volume that carries a sense of rhythm and movement along the campus’s axis. A delicately perforated facade hearkens back to ancient Chinese craft like wood and ivory carving and produces dramatic visual effects recalling light shimmering on the bay. The scrim-like envelope modulates transparency according to the spaces it encloses, creating openings at the public lobbies and gathering areas and becoming more opaque at the theatres and rehearsal spaces. While formally and technically innovative, the facade concept is rooted in traditional Chinese building screens and shadow walls.

A fly tower tilted 15-degrees off the vertical creates a point-of-orientation that announces the centre as the focal point on campus. Sky-bridges connect the tower to the main volume, offering commanding views over the bay. Gathering areas and elevated porticos line the base of the building, and a restaurant sits at the end of a sloping volume that extends into the plaza, weaving the building into the larger campus. 

Visitors enter through a soaring triple-height lobby. A grand curving staircase and billowing walls finished with wooden slats continue the undulating character of the exteriors. Natural light from above filters in through the perforated facade, creating a lively play of shadow across the space.

The main performance hall will host high-profile productions of opera, classical music, and ballet. Its delicately sculpted walls accentuate the organic geometries of the space and optimize acoustic conditions by muffling background noise and enhancing sonic clarity. The stage comprises six double-layered lifts that can be raised and lowered within a range of ten meters, opening new production possibilities. The orchestra pool can be raised to the height of the main stage to extend the performance area into the house.

A 600-seat theatre complements the main performance hall. This space is designed for flexibility to accommodate experimental productions. The stage and seating can be easily rearranged, enabling catwalk, four-sided stage, immersive, and interactive theatre experiences.