Ateliers Jean Nouvel wins competition for Shenzhen Opera House

The light of the sea

Ateliers Jean Nouvel has won an international design competition to complete a new opera house in shenzhen, china. named “The light of the sea.” The Opera House is a miracle that keeps the original and irreplaceable invention of musical emotion alive through the most subtle and improbable instrument there is: the human voice. In this sense, an Opera House is a sacred place for the human expression of artistic emotion. The construction of a major Opera House means inventing a space for emotion.

And, as the great scenographers have always known, emotion begins before people arrive, from the outside, from the moment this symbol of music is sighted. Sighting the Opera House standing in the city should be an emotional moment, the first stirrings of a desire for music. Designing an Opera House for a global city means ramping up its power by fostering the power to move people emotionally. Architecture is already a song. Architecture is an interpretation.

Of a song that evokes the poetry of a place, a song that pervades that place, an echo. Architecture is evocation. Architecture is a close relative of music. Through harmony, through rhythm and through composition. Architecture and music share the same quest for rightness. Music is communion. A pleasure shared is a pleasure increased tenfold. Architecture heightens the experience of sharing. At Shenzhen it is the meeting of music and sea. The one must evoke the other.

The sea will welcome and incorporate the music. The Opera House will welcome and incorporate the sea. They will bolster each other, bond. Harmony begins as a friendly relationship with Shenzhen. Everything should be about associations, echos, subtle, natural transitions, and the invention and interaction of various forms of light. Rhythm means spirit, character, identity, attractiveness, being an icon. Rhythm is the opposite of the warm water that puts you to sleep.

It means giving rhythm to the waterside promenade through distinct sequences, interpenetrating elements, inversions, different speeds, different forms of silence. It means awakening or reawakening. It means making an impression on people’s minds, ears and eyes. It means filling people’s heads with memorable, attractive and sometimes even addictive music.It means acknowledging the image of music, within and without. It means filling people’s eyes with light, day and night.

The composition will be urbane, dictating the sense and sensibility behind the way life is structured, in several places, in several acts. By making sure there is perfect compatibility, enrichment, a layering of the existing urban composition. By working out how this new composition of different programs can help, can bolster the form the city has today.Is this a music precinct? a city of music within the city? standing on the traces of the old town?

It means terraces bathed in light from the sea where life will flourish, where shows will be held on rooftop terraces, with their friends, bars and restaurants, and with artists and the performances they give… Shenzhen has always been in harmony with the South China Sea. It used to be a fishing village. Its coastline has always been a promenade, once as popular as it was poetic. The promenade will be enhanced. The arrival of the Opera House will create a long sequence along a coastline that has already been diversified over a stretch more than a kilometre long…

This almost square-shaped precinct, the Opera House neighbourhood, will be part and parcel of the music and the sea on three of its sides. It will be protected by a huge glass hall to substantiate the fact that the Opera House itself and its auditorium belong to the China Sea. The Opera House’s auditorium will be visible through the spacious foyer leading to it. On the northern side it will open completely on to the music precinct. This will involve a large loggia opening on to terraces teeming with life, seaside terraces that will evoke the sea, thanks to lying beneath the lights coming from the sea of glass that will house them.

The sea will be both around you and over you. This explains more clearly why the main foyer has to be made of a noble, precious and luminous material that spells the meeting of sea and music and light. Mother-of-pearl is a bright and lustrous light-element that looks wet when dry. As such, mother-of-pearl will feature in the Opera House auditorium in an irregular, rhythmic way, highlighting the curve of the balconies or the acoustic geometries of the walls.

Using the lustrous white reflections of a nacreous material will be a concrete poeticisation of the meeting of the sea and the auditorium and concert halls of the Opera House. It will be an indication of the diverse uses of the halls and foyers in its rhythmic marking of the different interiors. At Shenzhen, then, inside as well as out, the twin image of mother-of-pearl shell and wave will open on to the everchanging light of the sea. Source by Ateliers Jean Nouvel.

  • Location: Shenzhen, China
  • Architect: Ateliers Jean Nouvel (AJN)
  • Associated Architects: Samuel Nageotte Architectures
  • Architectural Team: AJN China (Chen Chen, Ran She)
  • Project Manager: Aurélien CoulangeS
  • Architectes Competition AJN: Tiphaine Dugast, Stacy Einsenberg, Alix Gasser, Pierrot Lankry, Anne Traband, Anh Viet
  • SNA: Tatiana Branco, Gilles Colomb, Claire Gaspin, Lucia Giudice, Elen Le Dez
  • Scenography, concert hall: Julie Parmentier, Stefan Zopp
  • Landscape: Yinan Du, David Euvrard, Isabelle Guillauic
  • Engineering & Cost Consultant: Andrew Davids
  • Engenieering Consultant: Thornton Tomasetti, RFR
  • Scenography: Michel Cova, dUCKS
  • Facade Consultant: Ken Y.Luo + GDAD
  • Client: Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sports, Tourism, Radio and Television, Planning and Natural Resources Bureau of Shenzhen Municipality, Bureau Publics Works of Shenzhen
  • 3D Modelling: Julie Soulat, Sna (Marion Autuori, He Li, Katherine Qian, Iléana Savescu)
  • Images 3D: Sabrina Letourneur, Tanguy Nguyen, Ala Rassaa
  • Graphic Design: Amélie Besvel, Marlène Gaillard, Marie Maillard, Eugénie Robert, Léo Taiariol
  • Total surface area: 220.000 m2
  • Opera Hall: 2300 seats
  • Concert Hall: 1800 seats
  • Operetta Hall: 800 seats
  • Multi-functional theater: 400 seats
  • Public service and cultural and creativity area: 23 300 m2
  • Stage design and production center: 12 000 m2
  • Performer apartments: 20 000 m2
  • Offices: 5 000 m2
  • Year: 2021
  • Images: Courtesy of Ateliers Jean Nouvel

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