- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 25 May 2017
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 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.
 Design and construction
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.
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.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Apple Park.
- Beijing Greenland Center.
- Beijing National Stadium.
- Building of the week series.
- CCTV Headquarters.
- China Philharmonic Hall.
- City Hall, London.
- Forbidden City.
- Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.
- Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum.
- Phoenix International Media Center, Beijing.
- Rose Museum.
- Royal Albert Hall.
- Sage Gateshead.
- Sydney Opera House.
- Types of dome.
- Unusual building design of the week.
- Xili Sports and Cultural Centre.
 External resources
- Arcspace - National Centre for the Performing Arts
Featured articles and news
Opening up the space below the former Floral Hall.
Why was the Fountaine Hospital Almshouse built in such a sophisticated style?
How do we measure air tightness in buildings?
The Housing Infrastructure Fund
Encouraging access to local amenities and sustainable transport.
Publish your thought leadership articles on Designing Buildings Wiki – for free.
Competence Steering Group publishes interim proposals to deliver safer buildings.
Indoor environments should provide a multi-sensory experience.
We have a great range of introductory articles written by ECA.
7 of the most common myths, busted.