Instead of designing a single block filling the seafront site, the Beijing-based practice split the complex into three distinctive spaces – the outdoor Dionysus Theatre, the 500-seat A Theatre and the 300-seat Fengchuao Theatre – with public spaces in-between.
“By breaking up an excessively large volume into three smaller units, the building integrates into the urban setting without being too obtrusive in scale,” explained the studio.
“The Aranya Theatre itself is a stage for the city, and the events in the theatre reflect Aranya’s urban public life,” it continued.
Each theatre space has been designed to have its own distinctive visual appearance and to meet a range of different uses, with the three buildings connected by a paved plaza.
The Fengchuao Theatre is a black box theatre designed for professional dramatic performances and is appropriately housed in a low, black metal-clad box in the centre of the site.
The adjacent A Theatre is a slightly larger space designed for a more flexible range of uses such as conferences and exhibitions, clad with a pattern of pale stone panels that vary in size.
A low lobby structure connects the Fengchuao Theatre to the A Theatre, built using a frame of triangular girders allowing for a column-free space that creates a sense of visual continuity between the two.
Looking to maximise the sense of connection between the theatre spaces and the city itself, doors lead directly from the small lobby into the performance spaces, encouraging visitors to spill out and gather on the surrounding plaza during intervals.
Positioned at a street corner to the south of the site is the Dionysus Theatre, a stone-clad external amphitheatre looking towards the sea that doubles as an informal gathering space when not in use for performances.
“With the functions of performance, party, relaxation and sea viewing, the Dionysus Theatre acts as a socially cohesive area of the town,” said Trace Architecture Office (TAO).
“The concept was to open up the theatre, where the stage takes the sea and the city as a background. The stage set is juxtaposed with the real scene of city life, creating a unique seaside theatre,” it continued.
Contrasting the openness of this amphitheatre is a “cave-like” cafe tucked underneath its semicircular form, with windows facing out towards the Fengchuao Theatre.
Other theatre projects recently completed in China include the Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre by Steven Chilton Architects, with a twisting red form informed by the city’s historic connection to silk.
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