The design by gmp, Architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners for the Urban Concert Hall in the Chinese metropolis of Chengdu won out over the competing entries by Jean Nouvel (Paris), Zaha Hadid (London), Nikken Sekkei (Japan) and Aedas (London).
Chengdu is considered one of the most attractive large cities in China. Public life in the streets is characterized by the city’s still vibrant tea-house culture, in particular in the historic centre with its urban fabric consisting of a network of wide and narrow lanes (“Kuan-Zhai Xiangzi”), which accounts for the metropolis’ unique character.
It is this specific local structure which inspired the motif for the design of the Urban Concert Hall; with its opera and concert halls, an art hotel, and other functions, it takes the shape of an urban ensemble of several volumes gathered on a shared podium, which settles into its neighborhood like a piece of a puzzle and, at the same time, generates presence and recognizability in the urban space.
The site is located opposite Sichuan University in an organically grown neighborhood to the south-east of the city center, right next to the prestigious Sichuan Conservatory of Music. Visitors and passers-by can use the main entrance to gain access to the foyer areas within the podium or can use the wide, open steps to walk on top of the podium, which is linked to the urban neighborhood via four additional sets of steps and also provides access to all functions.
Both halls – the opera hall with 1,600 seats and the concert hall for an audience of 1,000 – appear as sculptural volumes featuring colors typical of public buildings in the region. They are shrouded in a delicate, copper-colored web, which offers a reference to the craft of bamboo braiding common in Sichuan province. Another theatre hall is integrated in the podium, thus making space for public pathways and spaces within the tight confines of the site. In contrast to the venue buildings, the podium area has been finished in dark grey natural stone, replicating the color of the local grey brick and thereby providing another reference to the building culture of the region. The smaller buildings of the art training center, the art gallery and the art hotel tower feature the same materials, as do the foyer areas, so that the inside appears like a continuation of the outside space.
In total, the offset arrangement of the building volumes generates a network of narrow and wider spaces around the central City Music Plaza. With the adjoining open air auditorium – which rises above the main entrance in the form of a grandstand – and a tea-house and other functions, the ensemble creates a public area which, with its diverse spaces and amenities, invites the public to stay a while.