harbin cultural center by MAD architects takes shape
harbin cultural center by MAD architects takes shape harbin cultural center by MAD architects takes shape
sep 16, 2013

harbin cultural center by MAD architects takes shape

harbin cultural center by MAD architects takes shape
all images courtesy of MAD architects




in 2010, MAD architects (ma yansong) won the competition to develop cultural center on sun island, positioned within the natural landscape of the riverside wetland north of songhua river in china. covering an area of 1.8 square kilometers, the construction area measures 79,000 square meters, the ‘harbin cultural center’ will include the harbin theater, harbin labor recreation center, harbin great square and wetland park. in its entirety, these programmes will form the harbin cultural island, bringing culture, art and nature together in an integrated environment–protecting and utilizing the surrounding wetland ecosystem–addressing harbin’s reputation as the music capital of the north.


the project continues MAD architects’ shanshui city concept (see more about the ‘shanshui city’ masterplan on designboom here) whereby they envision architecture formally reflects nature. the ‘harbin cultural center’ has been designed to be a continuation of its surrounding landscape, which sees undulating forms that communicate the image of a snow covered mountain.



general view of the construction site
image © iwan baan



the cultural island is surrounded by rivers on all sides and embraces the bank of the body of water as its background so that it looks like a glacier stretching out and connecting with nature. the main entrance into the building mimics that of a jade belt bridge, spanning the wetlands, creating a connection between the city and the ‘harbin cultural center’. the curving lines of the structure blend in with the terrain, directing flows of people from various directions to the point of access to the harbin theater and labor recreation center. nature continues to be mirrored through the built form as seen with the external ramp of the grand theater, resembling a mountain path that has been carved out by gusting wind which guides visitors between the interior and the exterior. travelling across this footpath offers views of the organic form against the landscape.



harbin labor recreation center
image © iwan baan



construction of the theater roof



to achieve the appearance of a snow covered mountain, the exterior will be clad in in custom-made white aluminium. to further this wintery aesthetic, white stone and concrete are used as part of the structural walls, reminiscent of ice and snow.



mock-up of the façade



rendering of the ‘harbin cultural center’



the architecture embraces its riverbank location




interior view of the lobby approaching the grand theater



 large amounts of glazing utilize natural daylight to illuminate the open public areas of the interior, with the need of interior lighting off hours supplemented by energy-saving and special lighting effects. the application of wood within the building contrasts the cool, white walls, resembling the warm atmosphere of mountain huts. on a more practical and technical level, the use of timer has been installed in order to achieve the best acoustical effects for the performance hall and grand theater.



the large theater will be clad in a wood shell



the grand theater is composed of two different sized theaters. the larger one seats 1,600 guests and and features lower level stalls and a two-floor gallery. the standardized stage is outfitted with an orchestral pit, designed not only for large-scale performances of opera, ballet and modern drama performances, but has also been realized to meet the requirements of traditional chinese theater plays. the second floor VIP lounge is covered by curved acrylic lamps, which appears as a glowing clear crystal floating in the theater.



interior of the large theater



seating in the large theater



large theater detail



interior of the small theater



the 400 seat small theater connects to the larger one, and serves as a venue for small drama performances, chamber music and operas. the design of the backstage curtain allows for the stage to expand like a wide screen with a natural landscape as its backdrop. the outdoor water feature can be used as an outdoor auditorium, thus when the curtain opens, a panoramic arena with unobstructed views is revealed.



exterior view



a large man made lake is situated between the grand theater and the culture and art center, contrasting the building with a long landscape bridge wedged in-between, forming a buddhist concept of a ‘void’. along this pedestrian bridge, visitors can access the labor recreation center that is west of the great square, which will include staff training quarters, conferences, cultural education, exhibition spaces, a hotel and catering space. the boundary of the cultural center interconnects with the river bank and wetland, blurring the boundaries of the natural and artificial.


the initial start-up for the project occurred between 2010 and august 2013, with the overall framework of the cultural center now taking shape. over the course of the next year, the façade, interior and landscaping will be finished with a projected completion date of 2014.


  • Quite stunning! A beautiful integration with the environment.

    Steven says:

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