Harbin Grand Theater, or Harbin Opera House, designed by Mad Architects, is situated on Harbin's Cultural Island -- a new arts hub by the Songhua River's north bank, which includes the Harbin Labor Recreation Center and Harbin Great Square, at the heart of the Sun Island Scenic Area, and in close proximity to Harbin's famous Siberian Tiger Park. Appearing as if sculpted by wind and water, the building seamlessly blends in with nature and the topography of the surrounding wetlands. Resembling a silver ribbon in the sky in summer, the construction melts into its snowy environment during winter.
Covering a total of 79.000 square meters with a construction area of 72.000 square meters, the site consists of the Grand Theater’s opera house (1538 seats), a small stage (414 seats), a box office and 470 parking spaces. The opera house measures 56,48 meters in height and serves as a venue for major opera, ballet and dance productions while simultaneously functioning as a concert hall. The auditorium is built in a horseshoe shape with a classical proscenium stage that employs state of the art stage equipment and making use of top international standard lighting and sound systems. The playhouse with a height of 25,75 meters meets the needs of drama, chamber music but also international and traditional Chinese opera performances and other events that can be hosted in this multi-functional hall. Altogether 28 dressing rooms, three rehearsal halls and 21 elevators guarantee a comfortable working environment.
Harbin Grand Theater's design excels due to its innovative ideas: The building’s architecture allows for a natural flow of daylight, making it the world’s first theater to employ this new energy saving lighting model during non-performance times.
Bringing together beauty and novelty, the venue's interior design, modeled after an array of islands, as well as the terrace's dynamic streamline shape flow in unison with the theater’s exterior aesthetics. The playhouse stage is backed by a completely soundproof window font that makes it possible to use the outdoor landscape as a backdrop while at the same time providing the spectators with a new performance experience. The theater’s rooftop is the world’s first that may be used as a walkabout for visitors to enjoy the scenic surrounding areas. By organically connecting different levels the whole theater becomes a unique 360-degree all-weather viewing platform. Surrounded by streams of water Harbin Grand Theater stands as a pier in the midst of the beautiful wetland landscape. Contributing to sustainability Harbin Grand Theater proves that there is no need for luxury building materials. Making use of common metals, wood and cement instead, it demonstrates the importance of knowledge, experience and technique over extravagance.
Harbin Grand Theater's quality manifests itself in many aspects: In order to equally satisfy the needs of fire safety precautions, acoustics and aesthetics its designers made use of GRC, glass fiber reinforced cement, as a base material with the wood panels being clad on its surface as a more decorative finish. Made from more than 20 million pieces of root wood from Manchurian ash, adding up to a total of 190 kilometers, the panels were carefully pasted together by skilled woodworkers one by one, polished and painted until eventually creating the illusion of a uniform solid-wood structure with its natural texture and color. The theater’s steel structure combines a variety of today's top construction techniques, its main materials alone adding up to a weight of 7.000 tons, the equivalent to one Eiffel Tower. The outstanding engineering quality won it the “Lu Ban China steel structure gold award for engineering excellence”. The theater's metal roof expands over an area of more than 50.000 square meters, or the size of roughly seven football fields. Due to the complexity of its hyperbolic shape more than 30.000 metal plates, all unique in size and form, were produced, each formed in its own three dimensional mold and then applied piece by piece.
To achieve the effect of being inside a sparkling crystal despite using natural light exclusively, 56.655 acrylic triangles, each 12 centimeters high were attached to the third floor balcony. Construction cost, safety and quality have been successfully controlled and maintained as planned during five years of production and therefore resulted in a timely finish without incidents or delays. The Harbin Grand Theater is the only building in China which was honored with the architecture prize in 2015. The venue celebrated its opening in March 2016.