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Ma Yansong reveals exquisite Grand Theater for Yiwu, China

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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’re blowing in the wind
Credit: Ma Yansong

MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong, have been chosen to build their ethereal design for the Yiwu Grand Theater in China’s Zhejiang province.

The announcement comes following a competition with Arata Isozaki & Associates, Atelier Christian de Portzamparc, GMP, and KDG.

The new building, located on the south bank of the Dongyang River, will have a 1,600-seat grand theatre, a 1,200-seat theatre and an international, 2,000-capacity conference center.

Positioned with the mountains as its backdrop, and the water as its stage, MAD says the design was created in response to the location, with the building appearing to float like a boat on the river.

The Yiwu Grand Theater will have distinctive layered glass sails reminiscent of Chinese junks, and their subtle curves will echo the Jiangnan-style eaves of the ancient vernacular architecture that's typical of the region.

Ma Yansong said: “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’re blowing in the wind.

“They act as a protective canopy around the building, resonating with the river, elegantly floating above the water’s surface, creating a romantic atmosphere.”

To reduce overall energy consumption, MAD designed the theatre using passive solar design, with the semi-transparent glass curtain wall acting as a shading system and optimising the use of natural light to form a solar greenhouse effect in the winter.

In the summer, the curtain wall will enhance airflow circulation inside and outside the building.

Envisioned as a public space, the building will be easily accessed from all directions and integrated with the waterfront.

To encourage public interaction, the scheme will also feature an amphitheatre, open plaza and landscaped terraces which will create “areas of quiet contemplation” – an immersive natural experience in the midst of urban development.

The engineering feats required to create such a structure in the middle of a lake have already got the world of architecture talking, as has the tight construction schedule, however, the statement building is a product of civic pride for the city of Yiwu, which has established itself internationally for its strong economy and as one of the world’s largest wholesale commodities markets.

In China, it’s known as a city of trade and an integral part of the country’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative.’

In 2018, the city decided it would focus on culture to elevate its soft power, with the new building being the result. Construction is likely to begin in 2020 and on its completion, the building is expected to stand as a world-class venue that will attract visitors from around the globe, putting Yiwu on the map as a cultural destination.

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MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong, have been chosen to build their ethereal design for the Yiwu Grand Theater in China’s Zhejiang province.
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