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  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Opera House
  4. China
  5. MAD Architects
  6. 2015
  7. Harbin Opera House / MAD Architects

Harbin Opera House / MAD Architects

  • 11:45 - 16 December, 2015
Harbin Opera House / MAD Architects
Harbin Opera House / MAD Architects, © Hufton+Crow
© Hufton+Crow

© Adam Mørk © Adam Mørk © Hufton+Crow © Adam Mørk +34

  • Architects

  • Location

    Harbin, Heilongjiang, China
  • Directors

    Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano
  • Area

    850000.0 ft2
  • Project Year

  • Photographs

  • Design Team

    Jordan Kanter, Daniel Gillen, Bas van Wylick, Liu Huiying, Fu Changrui, Zhao Wei, Kin Li ,Zheng Fang, Julian Sattler, Jackob Beer, J Travis Russett, Sohith Perera, Colby Thomas Suter, Yu Kui, Philippe Brysse, Huang Wei, Flora Lee, Wang Wei, Xie Yibang, Lyo Hengliu, Alexander Cornelius, Alex Gornelius, Mao Beihong, Gianantonio Bongiorno, Jei Kim, Chen Yuanyu, Yu Haochen, Qin Lichao, Pil-Sun Ham, Mingyu Seol, Lin Guomin, Zhang Haixia, Li Guangchong, Wilson Wu, Ma Ning, Davide Signorato, Nick Tran, Xiang Ling, Gustavo Alfred Van Staveren, Yang Jie
  • Associate Engineers

    Beijing Institute of Architectural Design
  • Façade/cladding Consultants

    Inhabit Group, China Jingye Engineering Co., Ltd.
  • BIM

    Gehry Technologies Co., Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect

    Turenscape, Earthasia Design Group
  • Interior Design

    MAD Architects, Shenzhen Z&F Culture Construction Co., Ltd.
  • Lighting Design

    Toryo International Lighting Design Center, Beijing United Artists Lighting Design Co., Ltd.
  • Acoustic Consultants

    Zhang Kuisheng Acoustics Research Institute of Shanghai Modern Design Group
  • Stage Lighting Design

    EKO Lighting Equipment Co., Ltd.
  • Stage Mechanical Engineers

    Chinese PLA General Armament Institute of Engineering Design
  • Signage Design

    Shenzhen Freesigns Signage Co., Ltd.
  • More SpecsLess Specs
© Adam Mørk
© Adam Mørk

From the architect. MAD Architects unveils the completed Harbin Opera House, located in the Northern Chinese city of Harbin. In 2010, MAD won the international open competition for Harbin Cultural Island, a master plan for an opera house, a cultural center, and the surrounding wetland landscape along Harbin’s Songhua River. The sinuous opera house is the focal point of the Cultural Island, occupying a building area of approximately 850,000 square feet of the site’s 444 acres total area. It features a grand theater that can host over 1,600 patrons and a smaller theater to accommodate an intimate audience of 400.

© Adam Mørk
© Adam Mørk
First Floor Plan
First Floor Plan
© Adam Mørk
© Adam Mørk

Embedded within Harbin’s wetlands, the Harbin Opera House was designed in response to the force and spirit of the northern city’s untamed wilderness and frigid climate. Appearing as if sculpted by wind and water, the building seamlessly blends in with nature and the topography—a transfusion of local identity, art, and culture.  “We envision Harbin Opera House as a cultural center of the future – a tremendous performance venue, as well as a dramatic public space that embodies the integration of human, art and the city identity, while synergistically blending with the surrounding nature,” said Ma Yansong, founding principal, MAD Architects.

© Adam Mørk
© Adam Mørk

On the exterior, the architecture references the sinuous landscape of the surrounding area. The resulting curvilinear façade composed of smooth white aluminum panels becomes the poetry of edge and surface, softness and sharpness.  The journey begins upon crossing the bridge onto Harbin Cultural Island, where the undulating architectural mass wraps a large public plaza, and during winter months, melts into the snowy winter environment.

© Adam Mørk
© Adam Mørk

The architectural procession choreographs a conceptual narrative, one that transforms visitors into performers. Upon entering the grand lobby, visitors will see large transparent glass walls spanning the grand lobby, visually connecting the curvilinear interior with the swooping façade and exterior plaza. Soaring above, a crystalline glass curtain wall soars over the grand lobby space with the support of a lightweight diagrid structure. Comprised of glass pyramids, the surface alternates between smooth and faceted, referencing the billowing snow and ice of the frigid climate. Visitors are greeted with the simple opulence of natural light and material sensation—all before taking their seat.

© Hufton+Crow
© Hufton+Crow

Presenting a warm and inviting element, the grand theater is clad in rich wood, emulating a wooden block that has been gently eroded away. Sculpted from Manchurian Ash, the wooden walls gently wrap around the main stage and theater seating. From the proscenium to the mezzanine balcony the grand theater’s use of simple materials and spatial configuration provides world-class acoustics. The grand theater is illuminated in part by a subtle skylight that connects the audience to the exterior and the passing of time.

© Adam Mørk
© Adam Mørk
Longitudinal Section
Longitudinal Section
© Hufton+Crow
© Hufton+Crow

Within the second, smaller theater, the interior is connected seamlessly to the exterior by the large, panoramic window behind the performance stage. This wall of sound-proof glass provides a naturally scenic backdrop for performances and activates the stage as an extension of the outdoor environment, inspiring production opportunities.

© Adam Mørk
© Adam Mørk

Harbin Opera House emphasizes public interaction and participation with the building. Both ticketholders and the general public alike can explore the façade’s carved paths and ascend the building as if traversing local topography. At the apex, visitors discover an open, exterior performance space that serves as an observation platform for visitors to survey the panoramic views of Harbin’s metropolitan skyline and the surrounding wetlands below. Upon descent, visitors return to the expansive public plaza, and are invited to explore the grand lobby space.

© Hufton+Crow
© Hufton+Crow
Longitudinal Section
Longitudinal Section
© Hufton+Crow
© Hufton+Crow

Surpassing the complex opera house typology, MAD articulates an architecture inspired by nature and saturated in local identity, culture and art. As the Harbin Opera House deepens the emotional connection of the public with the environment, the architecture is consequently theatrical in both its performance of narrative spaces and its context within the landscape. 

© Adam Mørk
© Adam Mørk
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "Harbin Opera House / MAD Architects" 16 Dec 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


R · February 12, 2016

Hi, does any one know what is a cladding material of lobby wall or auditorium. I don`t see any expansion joints typical for wood. Is it some sort of wood cladding "glued" on GRG or GRC ?

Manuel Rodríguez · December 22, 2015

When we were designing this at the office we thought about a squid LOL. Just kidding, proud we finally see it built, but these aren't the final pictures... :S

R · February 12, 2016 03:25 PM

Hi Manuel, ido you know if there is a place where project with more details was already published? I`m mostly concern of "wood or wooden like" cladding details.

Alan · December 19, 2015

At least we have to give the credits to the designer, architects and engineers who were behind in this project oh how much effortless of hard work and time they have given. Maybe we have comments about the form of the design but hey the team have done a tremendous job with high quality finishes.

misc · December 18, 2015

I think what makes this project so successful is they ripped it off from these guy back in 2010 serious get your own aesthetic.......

Małgorzta · December 19, 2015 11:19 AM

The project you have mentioned is nice.This one is ugly. So if they ripped it off, they did it badly.

HeywoodFloyd · December 18, 2015

I think what makes this project so successful is that the grand gesture of the form is articulated with tectonically comprehensible building and construction components. Too much architecture today is just the grand gesture and nothing else, which is in my opinion the result of the tyranny of the computer. ZHA's Heydar Alyiev that someone else already mentioned, is a prime example of this problem.

Gergana Popova · December 17, 2015

spectacular artwork ... bravo! bowing to the ground :))
I imagined something similar design to the old center of Monaco ;)

Arnold King · December 17, 2015

Such a stunning building!

Małgorzata · December 17, 2015

Bloblike exterior, bloblike interior.Ugly.
I'm not a hater I'am a truthteller.
It should be Hadid's design.

Roger Lansen · February 02, 2016 08:43 PM

Funny when truth becomes a subjective matter.

Renan Lima · December 16, 2015

lindooo ^^

MyName · December 16, 2015

why these people so obsessed (subconsciously) with genitals...

Devin du Plessis · December 16, 2015

There will always be mindless haters. This is possibly the most beautiful building of our time to date, with Heydar Aliyev the only competition. It is a Phillip Johnson type design, it does one thing but it does it better than anyone else.

And yes there is always someone comparing freeform to some creature or something, the reason is simple, humans are not blocks we relate to curves intuitively and we understand them better than any other form.

Curved architecture is on a trajectory now that it has gained traction thanks to computer aids. If you don't like it now, it's because it's teething but you will.

ABruce · December 18, 2015 05:36 PM

When I saw these photos a few days ago it made my heart beat faster. I can't get it out of my head. This is one of the most beautifully designed and constructed buildings of our time.

Brendan Laurence · December 17, 2015 12:35 AM

I agree, I don't usually like blob type architecture but this one made me say "wow!". For some reason that I cant figure out, it seems more than just a shape randomly generated from grasshopper. It seems more purposeful? More considered? I'm not sure what it is, but I like it.

bibi · December 16, 2015

are blobs still legal ?

Devin du Plessis · December 16, 2015 06:05 PM

More legal than blocks...

Croco Dile · December 16, 2015

A strange symmetry in this project.

Walt · December 17, 2015 06:11 PM

lmao. Thanks...

Małgorzata · December 17, 2015 10:07 AM

I don't like you but I like this comment and the photo,:D


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© Hufton+Crow

哈尔滨歌剧院 / MAD建筑事务所