Zhuhai Opera House

Zhuhai, China, People's Republic of

Zhuhai Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism


Prof. Chen Keshi (Urban Design Center of China, Peking University)

Executive Architect

Executive Lighting Designer
Beijing United Artists

Getty Images
Arts and Education

Architecture + Environment

The striking Zhuhai Opera House, conceived by the Urban Design Centre of China, Peking University and delivered by the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, has recently been completed on an island just off the mainland.

The lighting brief was to respond to the unique twin scallop shell structure, the maritime location, and the cultural heritage of the site as a former pearl fishing town – the name Zhuhai literally translates as ‘Pearl Sea’.

We took inspiration from the colours and textures associated with this heritage: the lustre of mother-of-pearl, the graduated translucency of a shell, and the way light appears when viewed through rippling water. Translating these ideas to the Opera, we proposed that the full surface of each of the four faces should glow; enlivened by animated lighting content that would create a remarkable iridescent effect.

The ability to adapt the animated content offers the city a means to connect culturally with the local people and visitors. Light becomes a means to communicate and engage, with the option to create light and sound experiences that share with the public something of the performances being undertaken within.

The façade lighting is realised by means of strings of LEDs mounted to the inner façade system, facing outwards to shine through the perforated outer façade. This is combined with grazing light and floodlighting to the exterior of each of the shells, emphasising the pearl-like form and adding a sense of depth by contrasting solidity with transparency.

Local lighting designers, Beijing United Artists, delivered the lighting scheme.

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