The Lyric Theatre Complex by UNStudio a world class theatre in the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong

Lyric Theatre Complex

The Lyric Theatre Complex is located in the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong, an ambitious 40 hectare waterfront cultural quarter which combines open public space with a wide range of cultural venues. Alongside the wide variety of cultural offerings, the District also comprises a mixed-use residence, office buildings public space and squares all of which are connected to long harbourfront promenade.

The Lyric Theatre Complex
The Lyric Theatre Complex is a mixed-use project housing three theatres (the Lyric Theatre, the Medium Theatre and the Studio Theatre), a Large Rehearsal Room which can also be used as an additional performing arts venue, a Resident Company Centre with eight dance and rehearsal studios and administrative facilities, and an extensive programme allocation for Retail, Dining and Entertainment.

Theatre buildings are no longer the enclosed, dark, clandestine ‘black-box’ volumes they once were. Transparency is therefore an important facet in the design of the new Lyric Theatre Complex; it openly displays what is taking place inside and invites in theatre-goers and general visitors alike. Even the Resident Company Centre programme – stacked above the Studio Theatre – enables views into the dance and rehearsal studios from the outside plaza. This transparency further activates the Artist Square to the north of the complex.

The Three Theatres
Whilst the three theatres within the Complex draw their own distinct identities from the types of performing arts to which they cater, their designs follow a unified approach essential to both creating a complementary family of theatres and a coherent building. Each theatre therefore has its own distinct colour which relates to its function. The colour and intensity of the spaces become more vibrant as the visitors get closer to the performing arts venues: the Arrival Hall and ‘Central Spine’ circulation routes employ neutral tones, but the intensity of colour builds and reaches its height when entering the auditorium.

The Lyric Theatre
As the largest of the three auditoriums, the 1450-seat Lyric Theatre reflects the grandeur and distinction of baroque-era theatres through the use of red and bronze-toned details, while a combination of a cooler grey/brown toned wood adds a contemporary touch. The design of the Lyric Theatre arises from the need to create asymmetrical seating arrangements, offset per floor to maximise the total seating in a spatially constrained building. However, through the angling of the side seat pockets and balcony frontage, there is the impression of symmetry from the stage, to the benefit of the dancers.

The Medium Theatre
The 600 seat Medium Theatre is dedicated to theatre and dance. This theatre uses a dark saturated purple, which is contrasted with a walnut interior with metal inlays. In order to create a more intimate, unified audience, instead of a stacked approach, the upper and lower stall levels of the auditorium are visually united, separated only by a single geometric gesture that makes the upper stall ‘float’.

The Studio Theatre
The 270-seat Studio Theatre is for small-to-medium scale text-based drama productions. A homogenous dark blue-coloured interior creates a black-box-like atmosphere. To truly enhance the intimate scale of the theatre, the auditorium is encased in a single shell that also encompasses the front of the stage and encloses the performers and audience within one space.

Circulation – the Central Spine
The building circulation is driven by a ‘Central Spine’, as an inner alleyway, creating a direct connection between Artist Square to the north and the harbourfront to the south. To provide an efficient circulation that can not only access the different heights of the theatres, but also weaves between and around the theatre volumes, the Central Spine forms two curving, stacked ramps (the lower spine and the upper spine), which together form a three-dimensional figure 8. The lower spine leads visitors down to the Lyric Theatre, while the upper spine leads visitors up to the Studio and Medium Theatres.
The upper spine opens up to two voids with skylights, located in the loops of the figure 8. These voids allow visual connections between all visitors walking through the theatre programme and both the Resident Company Centre and Retail, Dining, and Entertainment.

Placement of the theatres
In the masterplan for the Cultural District, designed by Foster + Partners, the street level of the entire district was designated as pedestrian access only, whereas all vehicular traffic is located below ground. The greatest challenge in the design of the complex was therefore to place the three main theatres in the constrained volume of the site boundary (with below ground loading bays), in such an arrangement that all of the theaters would be acoustically isolated from the infrastructural site. As a result, the large Lyric Theatre is placed eleven metres below ground level, enabling alignment with the underground loading bay. The solution found to shield the building and all the theatres and performing arts venues within from the vibration and noise of the site was to ‘float’ the entire building on over 650 isolation springs.

Programme Distribution
The Resident Company Centre – which is comprised of administrative offices and eight dance and rehearsal studios for different resident and visiting companies – is separated from the theatre programme, but has visual connectivity with the central spine below through a glass void. The Resident Company Centre also has its own private rooftop courtyard.
The Retail, Dining and Entertainment programme is separated into three independent pockets within the building and includes light refreshment dining, restaurants, bars and high-end destination dining. These pockets can all be accessed directly from outside entry points, as well as from the Central Spine of the building. Source by UNStudio.

  • Location: Hong Kong, China
  • Architect: UNStudio
  • Architect in charge: Ben van Berkel, Hannes Pfau with Garett Hwang, Shuyan Chan
  • Project Team: Sean Ellis, Praneet Verma, Josias Hamid, Irina Bogdan, Alexander Meyers, Jeff Lam, Iker Mugarra Flores, Deepak Jawahar, Mimmo Barbaccia, Evan Shieh, William Benjamin Lucas, Caroline Smith, Vera Kleesattel, Albert Lo, Arnold Wong, Emily Yan, Haibo He, Abraham Fung, Mihai Soltuz, Betty Fan, Johnny Chan, Berta Sola Sanchez, Eric Jap, Chuanzhong Zhang, Kyle Chou, Bennet Hu, Kenneth Sit, Kevin Yu, Weihong Dong, Stephni Jacobson, Piao Liu, Francois Gandon, James Jones, Mingxuan Xie, Iris Pastor, Jonathan Rodgers, Kaisi Hsu, Pragya Vashisht, Nora Schueler
  • Lead Consultants: UNStudio / AD+RG
  • Structure, Civil, Geotechnical: AECOM
  • MEP, Environmental: WSP
  • Theatre Consultant: The Space Factory, Carre and Angier
  • Acoustic Consultant: Marshall Day
  • Facade Consultant: inHabit
  • Landscape Consultant: LWK Partners
  • Lighting Consultant: ag Licht
  • BIM Consultant: isBIM
  • Traffic Consultant: MVA
  • Client: West Kowloon Cultural District Authority
  • Building surface (GFA): approximately 41,000sm
  • Building site: 7,747sm
  • Year: 2018
  • Images: DBOX, WKCDA, Courtesy of UNStudio

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