Awarded to Paul Andreu in August 1999 as a result of an international competition, this 149,500 sq m structure is being erected just behind the Great Hall of the People, near Tian An Men Square, and thus very close to the entrance to the Forbidden City. It is a 212-m long ellipsoidal titanium shell that will house three halls of 2,416 seats (opera), 2,017 seats (concerts) and 1,040 seats (theater). The shorter axis of the structure is 143-m long and the height of the shell is 46-m. In order to leave the external shell intact, the architect has chosen to provide public access through a transparent 60-m long tunnel that will pass beneath the basin that surrounds the building. This is a device similar to the underwater tunnel he used in the Osaka Maritime Museum. Andreu emphasizes that the tunnel is an essential design element since it represents a transition space between the bustling outside world and the world of culture within. Extensive urban renewal efforts have made way for a large park area around the Opera that was erected on a very fast schedule with the opening planned for the end of 2004. Andreu faced extremely stiff resistance to his project, both within China and curiously in his native France, where the daily Le Monde published an almost vitriolic attack against the design.
Given its spectacular location and surprising design, this is surely the project by a foreign architect that will mark the Chinese capital the most.
Keywords: China, PRC, Beijing Shi, performing arts structures, theater, construction near completion. Submitted by Budiman Wiharja.