National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing
The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) is located in the centre of Beijing, China. It is known by its nickname ‘the giant egg’, because of its distinctive flattened-dome shape.
The building is situated like an island in the middle of an artificial lake of 35,500 sq.m. Around the lake a green ring of 39,000 sq.m is intended to isolate the building from the noise of the city.
The NCPA was designed by French architect Paul Andreu, and houses an opera house capable of seating 2,398, a concert hall seating 2,019, a theatre seating 1,035, and a smaller multi-function theatre. Construction work began in 2001, and the inaugural concert was held in December 2007.
Its location provoked some controversy because of its proximity to Tiananmen Square, the Great Hall of the People and the Forbidden City. Andreu argued that, as an important international city, Beijing should include modern as well as ancient traditional Chinese architecture. The inclusion of the lake and the green ring were part of the design solution to complement the ancient architecture and prevent the contrast being too jarring.
The building is an ellipsoid dome of titanium and glass, designed to resemble an egg floating on water, or a water droplet. Andreu designed the building to be an iconic feature that would be instantly recognisable.
The dome has a maximum span of 213 m (in its east-west direction), a minimum span of 144 m (north-south), and reaches a height of 46 m. The total area of the building is 12,000 sq.m.
It is covered with 18,000 titanium plates, integrated with more than 1,000 sheets of ultra-white glass; a low-iron glass with high light transmission. The titanium shell is divided in two by a curved glass curtain, gradually widening from the top to the bottom where it measures 100 m in width. When illuminated at night this gives the impression of a stage curtain being pulled back, while during the day the glass curtain bathes the interior in light.
Visitors reach the building through the Underwater Corridor, a hallway that stretches beneath the lake from the green ring. The glass ceiling allows light to pass through from the water, producing a shimmering effect.
The building’s initial planned cost was 2.688 bn yuan. However, on completion, this had escalated to more than 3.2 bn yuan. It has been suggested it will be close-to impossible to recuperate the investment. Each individual seat, when averaged out, is worth around 500,000 yuan. On top of this, the huge costs of cleaning the external surface mean that the Chinese government faces subsidising the building for many years. Responding to this though, the Chinese government claimed that the building was never intended to be a for-profit venture.
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 External resources
- Arcspace - National Centre for the Performing Arts
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