Snøhetta was selected to design the latest landmark of Xingtai, one of China’s oldest cities that is undergoing rapid urban development. The Grand Theater, integrated into the master plan of the central and southern parts of the Hebei province, will become a new cultural monument.
Xingtai is looking towards the future while remaining grounded in its rich history […] The Grand Theater is an important cultural initiative to carry forward this city’s legacy and culture. -- Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, Snøhetta’s founder
Struggling to meet the needs of the fast modernization, Xingtai’s old urban fabric, is experiencing a massive transformation, with a new master plan and a cultural hub to be implemented. Snøhetta’s winning proposal grasped the city’s logic and did not limit its reach to the parcel. In fact, it introduced the Grand Circle Promenade, including not only the Grand Theater, but “a science-and-technology museum, a circular event plaza, and the central eco-park, creating a generous space of interaction and creativity”. Connecting the different cultural entities, and unifying the city, the project generates also inclusive public spaces, “where visitors from any cultural or social background can enjoy the sights and activities around and inside the Grand Theater, without necessarily being a ticket-holder”.
Inspired by the ancient Eastern Chinese philosophy, “Tian Yuan Di Fang,” meaning round sky and square earth, distinguishing heaven and Earth, and encompassing everything in between, the design celebrates this ideology, in both the macro and micro scale. The Xingtai Grand Theater, emerging from the Grand Circle Promenade, creates a space that “pays homage to the well and the city’s early advancement in well technology”, translated in the reflective pool at the center. The façade of the building, covered in ceramics pays tribute to Xingtai’s rich porcelain manufacturing history.
A walkway circles the “well”, embracing the site before spiraling through the theater building, all the way up to its outdoor roof plaza, which provides a view of the new cultural area. The “platform” is represented via multiple podiums incorporated in the design, creating opportunities for both choreographed and live performances. – Snøhetta
Regarding the design of the building, Snøhetta state that it “aims to provide a conceptual level of balance between the theater’s long-curved plaza, shimmering façade, and soaring atrium”. The Grand Theater aims to serve as a space for performances and for spontaneous activities. Actually, the project conceives different agglomerations where people can meet up, like a circular outdoor space that can be used for picnic gatherings and family activities, an outdoor amphitheater that can welcome spontaneous impromptu practice sessions, and a midpoint platform that overlooks the park.