China's new Wuxi Grand Theatre was inspired by a butterfly landing on the edge of a lake, and it features a series of 8 wing-shaped overhanging roofs to protect it from the sun. Designed by Finnish firm PES-Architects, the theater rivals the grandeur of the Sydney Opera House. PES-Architects sought to create an ecologically-sound building while paying careful attention to interior design, landscape design, theatre technology, lighting and acoustic design. The two-auditorium theatre also takes advantage of programmable LED outdoor lighting, daylighting and innovative bamboo interiors.
Inspiration for the Wuxi Grand Theatre’s design came from the butterfly as well as the old Chinese opera, Butterfly Lovers. The building’s volume is that of a butterfly landing on water and features eight massive steel wings, which give the building a sculptural quality. The wings also serve to shield the building from the sun and keep the interior cool. On the underside of the wing-like roof are thousands of LED lights integrated into the aluminum panels that can be programmed to change colors for different performances. A “forest” of 50, 9-meter light columns support the roof of the naturally daylight central lobby. PES-Architects was in charge of all aspects of the design to ensure the project was seamless and incorporated sustainable design. New fabrication technology has improved the use of the renewable material and bamboo was used exclusively in the place of wood for many of the interior finishes even specially designed acoustic panels.
The theatre is located on a man-made peninsula of Wu-Li Lake, south of Wuxi centre city and is the most important new cultural building project of the Tai-Hu New City. The 78,000 sq m theatre is set upon a stone plinth and features two different auditoriums inside connected by a central lobby, while utilities, service facilities and parking are located in the plinth. PES-Architects led by Pekka Salminen won the award to design the Wuxi Grand Theatre in 2008 and recently completed it in the spring of 2012.
Images ©Jussi Tiainen, Pan Weijun and PES-Architects