About This Project

Located in the Huadu District of Guangzhou, China, the ‘Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre’ is the recently completed, 2000 seat purpose‐built theatre, designed by London based practice SCA|Steven Chilton Architects.

Guangzhou is the birthplace of the ‘Silk Road on the Sea’ and has been a significant centre for the arts and trading since the Han Dynasty. Inspired by its traditional and contemporary artists, the concept for the theatre has been informed by silk embroidery, the illustrations of artist Zhang Hongfei and tattoo art.

Guangzhou has been the home of and inspiration for artists who have helped to define the worlds concept of Chinese culture for thousands of years. Through our work on the theatre, we have endeavoured 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.

Silk has been painted and embroidered by fine artists in Guangzhou for thousands of years and developed as a creative medium for depicting myths and scenes of nature on tapestries and ornamental robes.

The physicality of silk cloth informed the formal expression of the building through a series of ten, gently twisting folds that define the outer envelope. The various entrances into the building are created by ‘tucking’ the surface in on itself where the valley of each fold would meet the ground plane. Each entrance is protected by a natural canopy created by the overhanging surface before it ‘tucks’ in to define the opening.

The theatres mission to cultivate talent is expressed through the imagery applied to the surface of the cladding.

We were influenced by a beloved local myth, ‘100 Birds Paying Homage to the Phoenix’. The Phoenix or ‘Fenghuang’ stands for virtue and grace whilst the allegory signifies notions of recognition, leadership and mentoring.

Using illustrations created by artist Zhang Hongfei, SCA digitised and interpreted his hand drawings before mapping each figure onto the surface geometry. We developed a compositional style inspired by tattoo art aesthetics. Each figure was positioned on the ’body’ of the theatre over a series of studies in response to the topology of the surface geometry. Whilst significant figures like the Phoenix were positioned where the form afforded prominence, lesser figures such as birds, were organically and less consciously arranged in the spaces between.

The cladding is composed of thousands of perforated aluminium panels, each painted with a unique portion of the overall composition. They are supported by a complex structure of welded steel tubes that work interdependently with the concrete superstructure supporting the theatre floors.

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Project Title:
Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre

Sunac Group


Due to open 2021

Huadu, Guangzhou, China

Cultural, Leisure, Theatre

Photos by:
Chong-Art Photography