Hangzhou Normal University Cangqian Performing Arts Center, Art Museum and Arts Quadrangle / Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl shared with us his winning entry for the Hangzhou Normal University Performing Arts Center, Art Museum and Art Quadrangle in Hangzhou, China. The pair of buildings, situated on either side of the canal, are the heart of the new campus. Holl’s concept early on was two balanced forms, one additive as seen in the design of the Performing Arts Center, and one subtractive displayed in the design of the Art Museum. This dialogue between these two buildings, the utilization of local materials, and the carbon neutral section of the new university provides for a special moment within the campus.

Follow the break for sketches and renderings of this project.

Architects: Steven Holl Architects Location: Hanzghou, China Design Architect: Steven Holl, Li Hu, Chris McVoy Project Architect: Garrick Ambrose, Yichen Lu, Roberto Bannura Project Team: Human Wu, Guanlan Cao, Francesco Bartolozzi, Michael Rusch, Johanna Muszbek, Maxim Kolbowski Frampton, Nathalie Frankowski, Scott Fredricks, Garrett Ricciardi, Jose Carlos Quelhas, Wenny Hsu Structural Engineer: China Academy of Building Research (CABR) Acoustics Consultant: Kirkegaard Associates Sustainability Consultant: Mathias Schuler (Transsolar)

An “additive form” concept generates the unique geometry of the Performing Arts Center, with the different halls stacked up freely and pulled away from each other to form a special public access hall at the center. The slightly rounded edges of the different halls are pierced by escalators in this dramatic arrival space. The spatial energy itself here adds drama even when silent.


Sitting on a glowing glass base, the auditorium bodies are “shrink-wrapped” with a translucent membrane skin which allows a soft light to all public and circulation spaces. Inside the auditoriums are of curved and laminated bamboo, with perforations in some panels to achieve perfect acoustics. In the opera house some panels are adjustable for different acoustic requirements. Seats have bamboo backs with blue-green mohair upholstery.


On the other side of the canal, the University Art Museum has a “subtractive” geometry with the voids carved in special glass bars, bringing diffused light to the galleries within. The concrete structural walls at the exterior minimize columns on the interior for exhibition flexibility. The charcoal-stained bamboo-formed concrete exterior gives a special texture to the walls, which are broken at the voids, lined in glowing planks of glass. These voids are also outdoor teaching spaces in their amphitheatre stepping, providing real variety and spatial energy in a museum of orthogonal walls designed to feature the art within.

site section

United by a pedestrian bridge, the unique relationship of these buildings – one “additive”, the other “subtractive”; one of the sky, the other of the earth – alludes to many ancient Chinese concepts while being the most ultra-modern and high-tech instruments for teaching at the new Hangzhou Normal University.

campus comparison

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Cite: Kelly Minner. "Hangzhou Normal University Cangqian Performing Arts Center, Art Museum and Arts Quadrangle / Steven Holl Architects" 24 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/106032/hangzhou-normal-university-cangqian-performing-arts-center-art-museum-and-arts-quadrangle-steven-holl-architects> ISSN 0719-8884

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