Architecture – Yiwu is a thriving trading city along the Belt & Road Initiative which has decided to invest in culture and entertainment to elevate its soft power by commissioning MAD Architects the design of the Yiwu Grand Theater . The practice led by Ma Yangson, has conceived a light and delicate architecture reminiscent of the Chinese traditional boats which is set to break ground in 2020.
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“The Yiwu Grand Theater has been designed as a monument for the city, that will serve to connect inhabitants to the waterfront from a new perspective.” Explain at MAD Architects. “In its completion, it will stand as a world-class venue that will attract visitors from around the globe, putting Yiwu on the map as a cultural destination.”
Located on the south bank of the Dongyang River in China’s Zhejiang, the Yiwu Grand Theater encompasses two theaters for 1.600 and 1.200 people and a 2.000 guests international conference center. Positioned with the mountains in the distance as its backdrop, and the water as its stage, MAD’s design responds to its locale, and appears as a boat, floating on the river.
The architecture is defined by a layering of glass sails that are reminiscent of the Chinese traditional junks that once transported goods across the waters, while their subtle curves echo the Jiangnan-style eaves of the region’s ancient vernacular architecture.
“The transparency and lightness of the glass express the texture of thin, silky fabric, creating a dynamic rhythm that makes them appear as if they are blowing in the wind. They act as a protective canopy around the building, resonating with the river, elegantly floating above the water’s surface, setting a romantic atmosphere.”
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The semi-transparent glass curtain wall has been developed to not only act as a shading system, but to also optimize the use of natural light. During winter it functions as a solar greenhouse; in summer it serves as the ventilation system by enhancing airflow circulation inside and outside of the building.
Yiwu Grand Theater features also an amphitheater and a large open plaza extending into the water on its southern edge. Landscaped terraces offer elevated views of the site’s surroundings, quiet areas create an immersive natural experience in the urban context.
The project can be accessed by car from the south shore. Tree-lined foot bridges from the north offer pedestrians the opportunity to meander along the water and enjoy views of the city, theater, and greater waterfront as they approach the building.
All images: courtesy of MAD Architects.