When the Pingshan District government in Shenzhen, China tapped Beijing-based OPEN Architecture to design the district’s first theater, the architects knew immediately that they wanted to create something different from the high energy-consuming and monotonous theaters that have recently become the norm throughout China. After taking a critical look at the past development of theaters in the country, the architects worked closely with the client to propose a new program for the Pingshan Performing Arts Center that emphasized social inclusivity by serving as a new cultural hub with amenities for both theater-lovers and the general public. Integrated with a public promenade and series of publicly accessible gardens, the contemporary theater also boasts a restaurant, a cafe, social and educational programming and an expansive landscaped roof that helps mitigate the urban heat island effect.

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Completed over the course of four years, the Pingshan Performing Arts Center eschews the extravagant exteriors that have defined many modern theaters in China in favor of a climate-responsive facade wrapped in precision-engineered perforated aluminum V sections that protect the building from sub-tropical sun exposure while enhancing natural ventilation.

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At the heart of the new performing arts center — nicknamed “drama box” — is a 1,200-seat grand theater wrapped in dark red-toned wood panels that are visible from both inside the building and atop the roof, where the fly gallery can be seen. The grand theater is flanked by a series of smaller functional spaces and a public promenade that links together a cafe, a black box theater, teaching spaces, rehearsal rooms, an informal outdoor theater and outdoor gardens on multiple levels.
“In breaking away from the mono-function Cultural Landmark typology, the building not only becomes much more sustainable in daily operation, but also sets a new example of social inclusivity for civic buildings,” the architects explained. “Serving as a new cultural hub, it also provides the non-theater-going public with an exceptional and unusual urban space.”

+ OPEN Architecture

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