A new opera house and cultural center in northeastern China

Officials broke ground on a massive new opera house and cultural center in Harbin, northeastern China, earlier this week, and in keeping with the architectural tenor of the day, the thing looks like a big, hulking mountain range.
Mind you, the design, by China's own MAD Architects, is more graceful than most, its peaks more closely resembling a couple of gently sculpted ice caps than the jagged Everest facsimiles everyone's going gaga for these days.
The development is called the Harbin Cultural Island, and it was partly inspired by the frigid climate of the region, which regularly plummets below -40 Celsius in the winter (Harbin's nickname is the Ice City).

  • The 117,000-square-meter development is conceived as a mountainous public space and holds a 1,600- and 400-seat theater, studios, education facilities, an exhibition space and a variety of retail.
  • 70% of the site will be developed to retain its existing wetland characteristics and will function as a public park while flood gates installed in the levee will allow controlled natural circulation of water into the site.
  • The whole development, including the park is roughly half the size of Central Park, and will be the main inner city park.
Harbin Cultural Island is part of a larger push to beef up the city's cultural offerings, both at the institutional and infrastructural level. That includes another MAD-designed building, the silky smooth China Wood Sculpture Museum. Harbin is, of course, smart to tap MAD. They're a rare example of home-grown talent, and their architecture is sexy as hell -- architourist bait on par with anything the hotshot foreign architects are doing.


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