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Guangzhou Opera House

Guangzhou Opera House is a new cultural building built in Guangzhou, the largest city in Guangdong province, China. Lo

Project Type

Cultural building


Zhujiang New Town, Tianhe, Guangzhou, China


Site area: 42,000m²; Floor area: 73,019m² (40,558m² above ground and 32,461m² underground)

Building Dimensions

Opera Theatre: 127m (W) x 125m (L) x 43m (H); Multipurpose theatre: 87.6m (W) x 86.7m (L) x 25m (H)


Guangzhou Opera House is a new cultural building built in Guangzhou, the largest city in Guangdong province, China. Located on the banks of the river Pearl, the modern auditorium carries a monumental design.

It is the third largest performing centre in China, the other two being the Shanghai Grand Theatre and Beijing’s National Theatre. Built at the foot of Zhujiang New Town towers in Haixinsha Square, the opera house complex is the central part of the cultural development in Guangzhou. It accelerated the establishment of Guangdong Provincial Museum, library and archive in the proximity.

The 70,000m² Guangzhou Opera House has been designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. They were chosen in November 2002 through an international competition in which Rem Koolhaas architect and COOP HIMMELB(L)AU competed as the finalists. The schematic design was started in October 2004.

Construction of the RMB1.38bn ($202m) project was started in January 2005. It was completed by May 2010 and was formally opened in February 2011. In May 2011, the project won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Award for its design.


“The Guangzhou Opera House has a grand 1,804 seat theatre.”

The Guangzhou Opera House design is based on the principles of topography and geology. The interior was mainly inspired from the river valleys transformed by erosion. The project tends to create an interrelation between the natural landscape and architecture.


The Guangzhou Opera House has a grand 1,804 seat theatre, a multifunctional lounge with 443 seats, support premises and other auxiliary facilities. The auditorium is equipped with the latest acoustic technology for superior sound clarity. A smaller building houses restaurant, bar and shops.


The opera house is designed as two large pebble shaped structures washed on to the banks of the river Pearl. The structures appear as twin boulders taken from the river bed and smoothed by erosion in a stream. The smaller of the two houses the multipurpose performance hall, while the larger is the main auditorium.

The auditorium has a wave shaped foyer. Entrance to the opera house is through an approach promenade on the landscape. The promenade also enhanced the urban function of the site and improved the access to the harbour and the river.


The Opera House is a pair of asymmetric structures with the dome and curtain wall integrated together. The irregular structural joint has a complex non-geometric design. It is about 43m tall and the external shell has a maximum length of 120m. Three-direction skew folded steel plates were used to create 64 faces and 47 corners to the structural façade. The latticed cladding required precise founding, positioning and joining of each steel sub-section.

The metal frame work of the opera house structure required 59 unique, custom-cast steel joints to hold the structure in place. The structure required about 12,000t of steel. The irregular shaped shell was assembled using GPS positioning and laser techniques. The project required new and cutting-edge construction methods.


The larger building is clad in charcoal-coloured granite with a rough texture, while the smaller structure used lighter white colour. The total granite façade cladding area is 24,700m² with 75,422 pieces used to give pebble appearance. The tessellated, triangular glass sections provide internal lighting and open up to the public areas. It also emphasises the crystalline nature of the Opera House.

Interior design

The large building covers an area of about 36,400m², while the smaller structure occupies 7,400m² and the other facilities account for about 26,100m² of space. Visitor circulation is guided by the structural and spine frame in the interiors of the main auditorium. Views are provided into the main atrium from various levels for establishing orientation and connectivity within the building.

“The Guangzhou Opera House design is based on the principles of topography and geology.”

The public foyers are located between the auditorium and the exposed steel structure. The black granite floors of the foyer lead visitors to the auditorium balconies through slopes and twists. The outdoors and main entrances are provided through cascading stairs and ramps.

Walls and ceilings of the auditorium are made of about 50mm GRG moulds fixed to steel frame. The folded and flowing surface is treated for a golden and glossy appearance. The spit level terraced seating is copper toned. Ceiling lighting is designed with 4,000 white LEDs. The acoustics design was a challenge for the asymmetric performance hall. It considered the differences in Chinese and Western operas, where the former uses various musical instruments.


The façade is made of granite and glass and is supported by steel frame. The moulded panels of the main theatre used glass fibre reinforced gypsum (GRG) for the interior surface.


Guangzhou Pearl River Foreign Investment Architectural Designing Institute, a local architect, was involved in the design.

SHTK (Shanghai, China) served as the structural engineer and KGE Engineering was the façade consultant. The mechanical and electrical engineers were OK Design Group and Max Fordham and Partners.

Marshall Day Acoustics was the acoustic consultant and ENFI was the theatre consultant.

China Construction Third Engineering Bureau was the main contractor and Guangzhou Municipal Construction Group provided the project management services.

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