Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre

Inspired by the sinuous volumes of silk

31 December 2020

"Guangzhou is the birthplace of the Silk Road on the Sea and inspiration for artists who have helped to define the world's concept of Chinese culture for thousands of years," said Steven Chilton, designer of the Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre.

Designed by London based Steven Chilton Architects, the recently completed Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre is informed by silk embroidery the illustrations of artist Zhang Hongfei.

Guangzhou is the birthplace of the ‘Silk Road on the Sea’ and has been a significant center for the arts and trading since the Han Dynasty. Through his work on the theatre, Steven Chilton has endeavored to channel the history, emotion and creative energy of the city through a building whose purpose is to nurture the next generation of cultural leaders in the performing arts.

The 2000 seats theater will host performances from visiting production companies as part of a group of entertainment venues being built in the city's Huadu District.
The building's distinctive cladding was influenced by Guangzhou's history as a key trading port.
The theatre is wrapped in undulating red cladding made from triangular panels, which was designed to recall the folds in flowing silk. "We have drawn inspiration from traditional and contemporary arts commonly practiced in the region. Silk cloth has been made, painted, and embroidered in the city since the Han Dynasty," explained Chilton. "We drew from the physicality of the material in our approach to the form through a series of gently twisting folds that define the outer envelope."

Across this red cladding, a series of darker patterns informed by tattoo art were drawn. Above this base layer, a series of golden figurative animals that were influenced by a local myth titled 100 Birds Paying Homage to the Phoenix, were added to the facade. Phoenix characters were given positions of prominence, while birds were arranged over the facade dependent on the geometry.
"Tattoo culture has recently gained prominence as a respected artistic medium, driven by a younger generation embracing it as an expression of individuality," said Chilton.

Photo: Chong-Art Photography