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    • 15 January 2015

      Chinese Opera With Danish Roots

      Henning Larsen is currently working on the design development of a new opera in Yuhang in eastern China. Simultaneously, the company’s most acknowledged cultural building in Denmark, the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, turns ten. Even though the two projects are more than 8,000 kilometers apart, they share a number of design characteristics.

    • Just north of the metropolis Hangzhou, the opera in Yuhang will form part of an expansive new cultural district. In addition to the opera, the project includes a theatre, two museums, an art school and retail stores. The vision is to use the cultural buildings as a focal point of the new urban area.

      The opera house will be located in the middle of a lake, on display to the entire city. A large recreational park will encircle the lake, providing a waterfront recreational zone and vantage point for taking in views of the opera, and creating an urban experience distinct from the rest of Yuhang—an oasis in the city. In contrast to the Copenhagen Opera, which originally was designed as one component in a dense new urban area, the Yuhang Opera is situated more freely and has a playful character with its striking geometric façade and sloping roofscape.

      To most people, going to the opera is at once a cultural and social experience: one goes to the opera to see a performance, but also to be seen. Thus, the social interaction of attendees before, during and after the show is just as important as the design of the auditorium itself.

      Light footbridges and balconies in the grand foyer of the Copenhagen Opera form the architectural answer to this staging of human interaction, providing points from which guests can watch each other and become part of the social event of going to the theatre. This unifying, active foyer space is conceptually repeated in the Yuhang opera, though through a different architectural idiom. 

      Over the years, Henning Larsen Architects has designed more than 50 operas and concert halls. Common to all these projects is a focus on people, space and daylight. Some buildings remain sketches, while others have been built and continue to function as popular gathering places, integral to the cultural and social life of the cities of which they have become a part. The Uppsala Concert and Congress Hall, and Harpa-Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre—which, in 2013 won one of the most prestigious architecture awards worldwide, The Mies van der Rohe Award—are some well-known examples.