This project won the 2013 Architizer A+ Jury Award in the Architecture + Weather category. See the full list of winners here.
It is rare for an architect to find an untouched location in a large city that lends itself so perfectly for constructing a monumental building. Like the iconic waterfront Sydney Opera House, the Wuxi Grand Theatre, built by Finland's PES-Architects, benefits from its location. The theater is on a manmade peninsula on the north shore of Taihu Lake, highly visible from all directions and in particular from the main bridge linking the old and new cities of Wuxi. This prime spot provided the perfect opportunity to design an equally eye-catching roof, which the architects used to place the building in a direct dialogue with the city's weather.
Evoking the character of a butterfly, eight massive steel wings stretch out from the roof 50 meters from the ground. While the wings add a distinct sculptural element to the crown of the theater, they reflect direct sunlight, sheltering interior spaces from excessive heat. The slanting of the roof wings also work to harvest rainwater, taking advantage of the local climate and reducing the building's impact on the environment. Adding to the theater's distinctness, thousands of LED lights illuminate the aluminum wings, and make it possible to change the color according to the character of the performances. Inside, the Main Opera Auditorium is covered by more than 15,000 solid bamboo blocks, all individually shaped according to acoustic needs. The architects say that an exciting part of the design was the ability to realize a building that captures the local character while infusing a distinctly Finnish element in its forms and materials.
While the final design is unquestionably iconic, the architects cited initial difficulties in successfully incorporating sustainable building technologies, which are often increases the amount of the time complete construction. Impressively, PES-Architects was able to realize its highly customized design, giving the city a new landmark structure. After one year of its opening, the theater has seamlessly integrated its green terraces and lakeside landscape into the urban context and local culture.