Theater design is one market in the urban landscape where architects are seemingly granted more freedom. As artistic centers, these public structures are celebrated for drawing the eye—and therefore an audience. From a water-locked theater (accessible by boat and footbridge) and a derelict printing factory in China to a theater in France with a mesh curtain seen around the city, here are five theater complexes setting the stage in dramatic fashion.
1. Firm: Kris Yao Artech
Project: Wuzhen Grand Theater
Location: Zhejiang, China
Standout: In a traditional water village in southern China, wooden boats and a footbridge are used to reach a 40,000-square-foot water-locked theater inspired by the rare twin lotus flower. The structure's two interlocking oval shapes, composed of blue brick, glass, and wood, contains two theaters—a total of 1,800 seats—sharing one stage.
2. Firm: Asymptote Architecture
Project: Sejong Center for Performing Arts
Location: Sejong, South Korea
Standout: The architects turned to the past to merge this 160,000-square-foot proposal with its historic surroundings. The familiar lines of nearby monuments—from temples to pavilions—are given contemporary interpretations in the structure's startling continuously changing geometry, including a multi-story main facade made of glass.
3. Firm: Origin Architect
Project: 77 Theatre
Standout: A derelict printing factory stripped down to its historical brick and steel shell now houses a bold new steel auditorium. To reveal a vibrant inner courtyard and secluded backyard, the architects removed a warren of illegal and hazardous temporary structures and a misplaced tin roof between the two major structures, inserting a series of climbing "three-dimensional garden trails" to connect the ground of the courtyard with a lush rooftop garden.
4. Firm: Raymond Fung
Project: West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre
Location: West Kowloon, Hong Kong
Standout: Erected in just three weeks, this 800-seat pop-up theater for the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority incorporates both contemporary and traditional bamboo construction. Three linked zones art exhibition space, theater, and seaside food court—soak up panoramic views of Victoria Harbor and a striking lateral ridge on the roof is composed of 12,000 stalks of bamboo.
5. Firm: Dominique Perrault Architecture
Project: The Albi Grand Theatre
Location: Albi, France
Standout: A nod to the drop cloth on a stage or opera stage design, the red copper-colored rust-proof metal mesh facade screening this concrete and brick theater also effectively makes it the star in a series of cultural buildings. Filtering light and weather, the mesh can be woven larger or smaller according to needs.