National Grand Theatre Of Beijing Cultural Studies Essay

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National Grand Theatre of Beijing had undergo controversial and struggling to find balance between local culture and global influences for 50 years before it became the significant landmark of Beijing and the largest contemporary building in early twenty first century. National Grand Theater of Beijing as known as National Centre for Performing Art (NCPA) is adheres to become the leader of art education which provides the platform for international art exchange to promote cultural and creative industry to the world. It is located in the heart of old Beijing on Chang An Avenue and become the neighbour of The Great Hall of People and Tian'anmen. It was designed by a France architect, Paul Andreu and it was built by Chinese government and completed in 2007.

The objectives to conduct research and study on this building are:

To investigate the spaces and ground design of it and how it interact with the society.

To study ideas and theories that influences the design of the space .

To study the relationship between global influences and local culture, how the society perseverance in innovative and preserve the culture.

In order to know more about the building, the background and history of the building will be study in chapter 2. In chapter 3, the analysis of the building will be discuss by divide into few sections. Summary of the understanding and research of the building will be done in chapter 4.


National Grand Theatre of Beijing is the first big project after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Same as other large and important project, the construction of National Grand Theatre of Beijing was planned for a long time. It is one of the buildings from the project 'The Ten Buildings' that planned to build by the government for celebrate the 10 years anniversary of People's Republic of China. The architecture practice in China during that time is focusing on express local culture so the preliminary design of National Grand Theatre is Chinese architecture style. Unfortunately, the project has to postpone as the country had suffer for natural disaster which cause the economy COLLASPE.

National Grand Theatre has entered development stage in 1986 after approved by the government. Architectural Design Institute of Tsinghua University and other design institute start to carry out some study for the theatre. The result of the study shows that the theatre should have three main halls and one small hall. Besides that, west of the Great Hall of People has been chosen as the site because it fulfills the urban city planning and it is potential to become the culture centre of the city. The project is proposed to launch again in an annual meeting of Chinese People's Political Consultation Committee.

The policy of the country during that time is open door policy, which allows the foreign culture and technology to develop in the country. Therefore, the project was postponed to wait until an International competition was held so that they can have an international performance venue. Few rounds of competition are held and all the schemes submitted by the participants are exhibited in National Museum so that the public can take part to choose the design. At last, design of Paul Andreu from ADP has won the competition. After finalize the design, the choosing site is strongly debate by the society as they think that Tiananmen Square have enough cultural facilities and the design of Paul Andreu which is too modern does not fit the existing building of the location. Some of them write to the government to demand reselect the chosen design so that Chinese tradition can be preserve. Besides that, they want a more economical and practical design. Most of the critics are mainly come from the older generation intellectualer. In the other hand, there are supporters for the chosen design as well. They mainly come from the younger generation and Chinese government that hope that the new design can bring in the new culture to the place and marks the turning of century of Beijing. Therefore, Chinese government makes some changes on the design based on the opinion of the society before the construction start to avoid unnecessary controversial. National Grand Theatre reflects the government and the society putting a lot of efforts to find the balance between global influences and their culture through discussion.


3.1 Exterior of National Grand Theatre of Beijing

As a contemporary architecture, National Grand Theatre of Beijing has a very modern exterior looks which make it very outstand from all the traditional Chinese buildings around it which are the Great Hall of The People and Tian'anmen (Figure). This building is a silver oval shape shell on an artificial lake and surround by green belt (Figure). The exterior of the structure is made up of arch shape steel trusses and cover by titanium and transparent glass. The titanium shell is separated by the glass from the upper part gradually widen to the bottom part, this make the whole structure looks like the rising curtain of stage (Figure). Besides that, it gives the structure a simple yet elegant atmosphere which can express the YI SHU completely.

During night, the reflection of the structure on the lake make it looks like a complete oval or an egg (Figure) floating on the lake. Besides that, part of the structure will looks transparent when the light of the interior is on, it enable people to see through the activities that are carry inside (Figure). The gradually open of the glass curtain design and transparent during night allow the people inside the structure connected to the exterior world.

3.1.1 Lake and Green Belt

The silver oval shape of the structure somehow gives people a very cold, not friendly and not welcoming feeling. Therefore, the man-made lake and the green belt are designed to embrace the shell structure, the natural scenery creates by the lake and green belt balance the coldness of the structure and brings in harmony and coherence to the building. Besides that, they separate the structure from the hustle and bustle city and become a leisure place for the citizen to enjoy natural scenery in a city. They are also design for helping the ultra modern structure to blend into the contrast neighbour. During summer, the artificial lake also functions for control the temperature of the surrounding of the structure.

3.2 Interior of National Grand Theatre of Beijing

There is a glass tunnel under the lake provide a passage for the public enter the world of opera. The ceiling part of the glass tunnel that made of glass allows the refraction of light from the water and glass fall on the walkway and create the marine ambience to the citizen. When walk along the tunnel, the citizen get to know the cultural heritage of China from the exhibition hall at the both side of the tunnel.

There is a lobby at the end of the tunnel which also known as Olive Hall. It is the gather point of the theatre. The public can feel the modern Chinese architecture ambience of the hall from the two large 'Tongmen' (Figure). The doornails ornament on the doors is the traditional Chinese elements which have undergo modern design evolution

Besides that, the top part of building is made by mahogany and divides by metal strip (Figure). The irregular arrangements of the mahogany make the space looks more lively and the reddish brown of the mahogany make the space looks more elegant and DUAN ZHUANG.

3.3 National Grand Theatre versus Royal Albert Hall

3.3.1 Layout and Form

National Grand Theatre consists of three main halls which are opera house, concert hall and theatre hall. The opera house is mainly used for dance dramas and opera while concert hall is the venue for national music performances and large symphonic. Peking operas and traditional Chinese operas usually play at the theatre hall. In the other hand, the Royal Albert Hall which located in England houses every type of performances. Performance is communication between performer and the audience through sound and movement. Therefore, the space design of the performances hall is very important to ensure the quality of acoustic and sight line.

The stage form for the three main halls of National Grand Theatre and Royal Albert Hall is trust stage. Trust stage is the seats of the audience at three sides of the stage to embrace it and make a sense of participant of the audience in every performance. However, the layout for the Royal Albert Hall is oval shape (Figure) when the three main halls are in fan-shape layout. The difference is due to the culture of the society during the construction time of the theatre. Royal Albert Hall is completed in year 1871. The society for that time is emphasize on sight line and acoustic quality therefore they had oval shape layout to achieve the best sight line and acoustic. In the other hand, National Grand Theatre having fan-shape design as the society is more obsess to have participant with the performers.

The seats of Royal Albert Hall and National Grand Theatre are similar, they have 3 floors and the seats are close to each other. This design can provide the better vision to the audience at behind and bring them closer to the stage. The seats within in same floor are gradually higher to avoid the vision of the audience at behind block by infront. Besides that, the seats are close to each other with comfort human ergonomics so that the audiences can closer to the stage.

3.3.2 Acoustic System

Acoustic system of a theatre is very important and it is closely related to the form, height, width, and materials of a theatre. A good acoustic system for a theatre is no echo and the sound distribution is evenly throughout the hall. The front part of the three main halls of National Grand Theatre and Royal Albert Hall are narrower than the back part. This design is to avoid the late reflection of sound which will cause echo, The ceilings of the halls are also high enough to avoid late reflection of sound that will become echo. However, the oval shape space of Royal Albert Hall can support sound better than fan-shape space of National Grand Theatre as they can reflect sound more evenly and make the hall more lively.

3.3.3 Ambience and lighting

The ambience of Opera House and Theatre Hall from National Grand Theatre is more similar to Royal Albert Hall which are mainly reddish brown. When the yellowish lighting strike on the red seats and the stage, it create a luxury ambience to these hall. However, the concert hall of National Grand Theatre that in silver white has a totally different ambience to the audience which is very clean and elegant .

3.3.4 Materials

In order to become a good theatre, materials that used play important role as well. The construction time of Royal Albert Hall and National theatre is very different so that the materials used between them are different even having the same purpose. Royal Albert hall is using curtain and the mattress of the seats and divider to absorb excess sound. However, Opera house of National Grand Theatre is using curve shape metal mesh as wall surface to absorb excess sound. Concert Hall and Theatre Hall are using emboss and deboss of wood as the wall to absorb and reflect the sound evenly.

National Grand Theatre versus Osaka Maritime Museum

National Grand Theatre and Osaka Maritime Museum that located in Japan are design by the architect Paul Andreu. Osaka Maritime Museum is built to exhibit the history of Osaka Bay. Both buildings serve different function but they have some similarities in the design. The layout of both building is similar which is the structure on water is connect to the entrance at shore by a tunnel that under the water. However, the tunnel of Osaka Maritime Museum is make of reinforce concrete, which is different from the glass tunnel of National Grand Theatre. Glass tunnel of National Grand Theatre which have exhibition hall along it is more interesting than the concrete tunnel of Osaka Maritime Museum that just function as walkway.

Besides that, the spherical structure of Osaka Maritime Museum is make of glass panel while National Grand theatre is make by titanium and glass. Osaka Maritime Museum can be totally see through from outside during night make it looks like a lantern floating on water, this design is interesting but somehow it is less privacy when compare to National Grand Theatre. However, the similarities of both structure is they will reflect on water during night which make them looks like a complete sphere.

There are internal buildings inside both structures. The internal space of the Osaka Maritime Museum is connected by annular floor while the internal buildings of National Grand Theatre are connected by link bridge. Besides that, the middle part of Osaka maritime Museum is used to exhibit ships.

4.0 Conclusion

National Grand Theatre is an architecture that design based on aesthetics and functionality. The three main halls of National Grand Theatre achieve international standard as a performance hall because their design are based on acoustic principle and principle of auditorium and stage. This building also marks the social development allows the changes of architecture practice of the country.

The controversial of 50 years that has undergo by National Grand Theatre show that consideration of interaction between society development and country development is needed to avoid unnecessary controversial to the new generation. Besides that, the new generation has to respect their culture when they adapt new culture to their country.