Xiqu Centre is Hong Kong’s prestigious new home for traditional Chinese opera. With its dramatic curvilinear façade and reinterpretation of the customary Chinese Moon Gate motif, Xiqu Centre creates a stunning landmark entrance as the gateway to the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), the city’s new precinct for arts and culture.
Conceived as a cultural sanctuary; blending theatre, art, and a dynamic public realm, this iconic 7-storey performance venue is dedicated to promoting the rich heritage of Xiqu—Chinese opera, the primary genre of indigenous Chinese theatre—and to the production, education and research of this unique and traditional art form.
Xiqu Centre’s glowing façade—reminiscent of a lantern shimmering behind a beaded stage curtain—comprises a modular system of scaled fins CNC-cut from untreated marine-grade aluminum pipe and arrayed in alternating patterns along the building.
The façade’s woven metal panels are gently pulled back like curtains at all four corners of the building, radiating light to the exterior and enticing a vibrant free-flow of visitors in and out of the interior courtyard to enjoy exhibitions, stalls, demonstrations and workshops dedicated to promoting Xiqu’s rich heritage.
“Qi” (meaning flow) is expressed throughout the complex with curvilinear paths and forms and arched entrances designed around a mesmerizing, multi-level circular atrium. The innovative design decision to suspend Xiqu Centre’s breathtaking 1,073-seat Grand Theatre at the top of the building 90 feet (27 metres) off the ground, facilitates internal configuration of the atrium and public plaza while strategically isolating the auditorium from vibration and the high ambient noise levels of its surrounding urban infrastructure.
This inventive design move was hugely beneficial in enabling construction to safely occur within and below the theatre simultaneously, resulting in a reduced construction timeline.
Flanked by two outdoor sky gardens offering visitors panoramic views of Victoria Harbour, the elevated theatre creates space beneath for a 200-seat Tea House theatre, rehearsal studios, education and administrative spaces, lecture rooms and retail areas overlooking the naturally-ventilated inner courtyard.
Xiqu Centre opened in January 2019 and is a world-class performance venue that respectfully embraces the cultural richness of Chinese opera within a magnificent contemporary expression, making it accessible to new audiences and future generations as it continues to thrive and evolve with modern technology.
From the Engineeers: BuroHappold Engineering
The project is partially sited above the existing Mass Transit Railway’s (MTR) West Rail tunnels and Austin Station, and directly adjacent to West Kowloon Station. In order to protect the Grand Theatre against vibration and noise, it is located at the top of the building, isolating it from the ground. While offering a solution to the impact of its location, it meant that the BuroHappold Engineering team needed to execute a complex structural design that involved lifting into place 6,700 tonnes of steel roof theatre trusses.
The striking facade gives the impression of a traditional beaded stage curtain that is pulled open at various points, allowing light to emanate through the gaps and offering glimpses of the theatre within. Achieving this distinctive architectural feature was another key challenge for our team.
Sustainability and passive design were key in the delivery of the project, with the aim of lowering both energy consumption and the running costs of the building. We needed to implement solutions that would achieve a BEAM Plus Gold rating.
Formed from structural steel, the Grand Theatre is suspended below the roof at the top of the building. To quickly and safely lift both the roof truss and theatre truss, our team integrated strand jacking with the overall structural design. This method allowed significant savings in time and cost, freeing the site area to allow work to continue concurrently with the construction of the roof. The main theatre truss was assembled at ground level before being lifted into its final position, 45 metres above Canton Road. This highly sophisticated construction process was unusual for Hong Kong but once again helped to reduce construction time.
Conceived to represent a sense of movement, the facade is formed from 2.5m long curved aluminium fins that are free from any anodising treatment, allowing the surface to weather naturally. Our team used 3D modelling software to understand and optimise the performance of the facade up to the end of the schematic design phase.
With sustainability and energy efficient features a key design aspiration, our team incorporated a number of strategies to achieve a BEAM Plus Gold rating. The high-performance building envelope reduces the impact of thermal and solar loads on the occupied spaces, while external fins and large overhangs on the highly glazed corners of the building offer shading. The building is naturally ventilated in the public areas to reduce the need for mechanical air conditioning. Other solutions include high efficiency water cooled centrifugal chillers, solar heated hot water, occupancy sensors and daylight sensors. This holistic approach not only lowers energy consumption but also reduces running costs.
The Xiqu Centre provides a striking gateway to Hong Kong’s new cultural district, while playing an important role in preserving the ancient art of Chinese Opera. With its elevated performance and rehearsal spaces, the centre offers the perfect environment for theatre within a vibrant urban landscape.
Architects: Revery Architecture
Location: Hong Kong
Category: Opera House
Principals In Charge: Venelin Kokalov, Bing Thom
Area: 28164.0 m2
Project Year: 2018
Photographs: Ema Peter
Manufacturers: Dorma, Otis, Signify, Kvadrat, Traxon, Stile, MEYER, Autodesk
Directors: Earle Briggs, Francis Yan, Ling Meng, Giles Hall, Johnnie Kuo, Kyle Chan, Daniel Gasser, Marcos Hui, April Wong, Culum Osbourne, Bibianka Fehr, Nicole Hu, Elaine Tong, Charles Leman, Chun Choy, Brian Ackerman, Ryan Shaban, Chapman Chan, Vuk Krcmar-Grkavac
Structure engineering: Buro Happold International Ltd
Civil Geothechnical: Atkins
Façade Consultants: Front Inc
Lighting Consultants: Hotron Lees Brogden Lighting Design
Acoustic Consultants: Sound Space Vision
Theatre Consultants: Fischer Dachs Associates
Signage Consultant: 2×4
Project description courtesy of architects