Beijing 2009 - National Centre for the Performing Arts

The National Centre for the Performing Arts – or commonly known as "The Bird's Egg" by Beijingers, has not received much praise in the architectural press since it was completed. In fact, there had been some criticism over it’s simplistic form and lack of sophistication. Compared to some of the excesses that has been built over the last 10 years, it is indeed quite understated.

The architect of the project is Paul Andreu - a Frenchman famous for designing the Paris Airport. Due to all these negative press about the project, my expectations were not very high. The building is located not far from Tienamen Square. Taking a short walk from the Square, you will come upon this unassuming building which is basically a large big orb in a reflecting pond. You enter the building through a sunken plaza, and from there pass through a tunnel under the reflecting pond. The ceiling is constructed entirely in glass, and the light passing through the water create rippling shadows on the walls. 

Passing through the tunnel, you go through an archway leading into the main lobby. It is a soaring space, and the transparency of the façade allows light to stream into the building.

I was quite impressed by the National Theatre. Amidst all the buildings which try to outdo each other in terms of form and structural gymnastics, the pure formal expression of a simple shape is quite refreshing and engaging at the same time.


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