Nanjing Performing Arts Center / Preston Scott Cohen


Architects: Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. (Design Architect); Institute of Architectural Design and Planning with Atelier Zhang Lei (Chinese architect of record)
Location: Nanjing,
Client: Nanjing University
Project Area: 16,000 sqm
Budget: RMB 3,000/sqm
Design Year: 2007
Construction Year: 2008-2009
Photographs: Iwan Baan

context plan
© Iwan Baan

Located centrally in the new Nanjing University Campus in Xianlin, this building aims to offer a singular expression of the dialogue between two opposing paradigmatic forms of symbolic significance: a curving roof that appears to be related to the landscape of the larger campus context, and a tower which acts as a beacon and observation point. The design exploits the techniques and economy of local construction practices as a means to develop an exceptional form. The interior follows an exceedingly compact plan of different types and sizes of rooms and auditoriums.

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Cite: "Nanjing Performing Arts Center / Preston Scott Cohen" 28 Jan 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>
  • Christian

    Lovely. Very well use of materials. Cohen makes it seem effortless. Great entrance.

  • Michael

    ‘this building aims to offer a singular expression of the dialogue between two opposing paradigmatic forms of symbolic significance’

    The end result, in my opinion, is a visually jarring and disharmonious whole.
    There are too many languages and shapes competing for attention and the result is uncomfortable and awkward.

    • spongebob

      yeah thats exactly what’s happening to almost every new architectures in China. They always mix everything together and call it “abundence”.

  • p


  • hernin

    brilliant & tranquil

    • Michael


      What makes you say this is brilliant and tranquil?
      What elements appeal to you?
      Is it the planning, the materials, the siting?

      As you can see from my post earlier, I don’t like it. I think it is a clunky sculpture sitting in a completely inhospitable plaza.

      But I am genuinely interested in hearing other points of view…. anybody else got an opinion? This one really fascinates me…..

      • GG

        Michael, if he likes it, why the f*** does he has to agree with you?!

        you bla bla about hospitality etc. you never been to this place, i guess, and you still critisize :)

        oh boy, so many haters on the web 2.0

      • David Basulto

        Actually, I think that it stands apart from other big boxes in China that are just cardboard models scaled up. The level of detail of the different pieces of the facades reveal a conscious work behind this project, standing apart from the rest of the context.

      • Qiu Kuai

        Sorry to tell you that this building is said to be the only building worth seeing in the new campus of Nanjing University.I learned it from my friend in the University.

      • stephanie

        I’m a student of NJU and I major in architecture. in my opion, the building is beautifully done.

  • QIDI

    There are many good things about this project, but I can’t get over that massive plaza/parking lot!

  • joe shmoe

    i like it for what it is… Doesn’t seem like too many things going on – in fact I feel like most things reinforce the concept – perspectival distortian elongation. The spaces are dramatic – wouldnt call them sculptural at all.. as for sitting in an inhospitable plaza – look you can look at architecture through a perfect lens of your own imagination – or through reality and actual inevitable circumstance – architects dont build on their on terms in china… especially for a public building of a high profile. 2nd the idea of public outdoor space does not really exist in china – not that i dont think it shouldn’t or not that it wouldnt be great if a rebelious architect somehow sneaked a small piazza into a building in china – but theres a reason you dont see renzo building in china and why spaces are a little oppressive .. i like the ceiling of the lobby – its simple yet gives the space a nice intimate scale and follows a trajectory of cohen’s work.

  • brian

    Some of it has potential, but the detailing looks like an LDI did it and is indicative of someone not yet ready to handle the scale jump away from single family homes. Interesting play on the Baker House though.

    • David

      This is a very low budget building that manages to come through quite well. The corners are beautifully handled, actually. The glass and tile too. What details do you object to? The railings look poor. Sure, it is not boutique residential architecture and also not the much higher budget of PSC’s other projects, the Museums where the construction looks far superior. But, still, this is unlike the typical Chinese university building, too. This looks MUCH more controlled.

      • brian

        The shadow box is junk. It would be a whole lot cleaner if it didn’t look like they just sealed it up with exposed steel framing. And the beam to column connection detail in the one interior shot is also junk. I think it’s pretty clean overall, but spending a portion of the “very low budget” on a folded surface while punting on the simple tectonics is lame.

    • David

      “spending a portion of the “very low budget” on a folded surface but punting on the simple tectonics is lame”, you say. I disagree. It was smart that the architect knew to accept certain basic things, due to the budget limitations, but not others. He chose to use extreme shapes and the common Chinese craft of tile to achieve something modest but good. If he had tried to make the beam to column connection special, we would have a debased Swiss tectonic and he would have had too little to spend on making the spatial impact he was after. He had to choose between modifying the basic tectonics vs modifying the basic spatial design. I think he made the right choice under the circumstances in China today.

  • Michael


    It seems that you are the ‘hater’ in this situation.
    Where did I say that Hernin had to agree with me?
    I just asked him to elaborate because I can’t understand his comment. It seems rather meaningless to type two adjectives and leave it at that.
    Just because I have a valid point of view doesn’t make me a ‘hater’.
    I think it is fairly defensible to say that a huge paved plaza with nothing in it is ‘inhospitable’.
    Do you have a point of view?
    Or is it your job to police Web 2.0 and make sure people only say nice things?

  • chicago_g

    agree with Michael. i do not see the tranquility of the building…. only showing photos without any people in doesnt mean “tranquil” of architecture. on the contrary, the massing is a kind of noisy to me, to some certain extent.
    i like metal finish on the facade though, the Iwan captured some good moments of lighting effectively unveal the material quality.

    • Ivan

      It is not metal; it is tile. That is one of the great things about this building. It fools you! Iwan captures that beautifully. Problem is that I bet his pictures are better than the real thing. How much do you want to bet on it?

  • Dan Stillerman

    This is an incredibly exciting piece of work not only for its overall form and complexity of interior planning but also for its sensuous exterior finish, the reflective tile that gives it a luminous affect which makes it seem like metal rather than clay. Really stunning.

  • Rembo

    Scotty, baby. Only 1 interior shot? Give me more.

  • frank

    There are some very nice moments within the project, but I can’t get past some of the late 80′s handling of collided, canted forms. Where the stair is integral to the form I think it is quite nice and achieves the stated aims; where the solid stair wraps the glass box, along with the angled punched openings, its gets very awkward..

    • Ivan

      But it is much more unified than the colliding forms that you are talking about. This is all unified by two materials – tile that looks like metal and Glass. That’s it. The angles are awkward in a very intentional way, creating unexpected effects (look at that courtyard) but ultimately they hold everything together.

  • KPF

    looks really nice like a KPF project, late 90s gestural corporate expressionism!

  • wartian

    the cleft like staircase!

  • Nicholas Patten

    Nicely Designed: Nanjing Performing Arts Center.

  • afshin

    بسیار عالی

  • http://none afshin

    thats exactly what’s happening to almost every new architectures in China. They always mix everything together and call it “abundence”.
    very good

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  • debesiu

    the photographer did a great job!

  • isis

    hmm maybe gg just lookin for attention. i used this building as my study case,btw. i could really see the form expression here. correct me if i’m wrong :D

  • isis

    oooops! sorry GG.
    what i ment is Michael.
    BIG SORRY :)

  • Vansie

    Wasn’t it designed by Scott Cohen? and I don’t think it can be simply called ‘mix’.Have you ever been there ? no disorders at all!