Chinese Gem That Elevates Its SettingIwan Baan
Published: July 5, 2011
GUANGZHOU, China — It says something about the state of architecture today that the most alluring opera house built anywhere in the world in decades is in a generic new business district at the outer edge of this city, has no resident company and a second-rate program.
And because this is China, a country that is still undergoing cultural growing pains and whose architectural monuments are mostly being built by unskilled migrant labor, the opera’s construction was racked with problems and the quality of some of it is abysmal.
Still, if you’re an architecture lover willing to find your way to the building, you probably won’t care much. Designed by Zaha Hadid, the new Guangzhou Opera House is gorgeous to look at. It is also a magnificent example of how a single building can redeem a moribund urban environment. Its fluid forms — which have been compared to a cluster of rocks in a riverbed, their surfaces eroded by the water’s currents — give sudden focus to the energy around it so that you see the whole area with fresh eyes.
The project is a vindication for Ms. Hadid. In the mid-1990s, when she was still a rising star with few buildings to her credit, she won an international competition for the design of the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales. It was a breakthrough moment. Yet the government refused to pay for her design and the project was eventually handed over to a lesser talent — an outcome that was devastating for Ms. Hadid and a blow to architectural history.
It’s hard to imagine that the Guangzhou site seemed particularly promising when she first saw it. The project stands at the edge of a vast, featureless park that is the centerpiece of the district’s master plan, about a 15-minute drive from the old city center. An enormous library, a kitschy masonry building intended to resemble an open book, faces it across the park to the east; a 103-story tinted-glass tower stands directly behind it, dwarfing the few people passing by on the streets below.
But the beauty of Ms. Hadid’s design stems partly from the skill with which she knits her forms into this insipid context. Approaching from the park, visitors climb a grand staircase or follow a long ramp that angles diagonally past a small, secondary performance space before arriving at an entry plaza in front of the main hall. The hall’s contoured granite and glass form angles out over the plaza. The smaller hall, about half the size, stands like a big dark boulder slightly back and to the right.
The two structures shape a series of paths through and around the site. Visitors can slip between the halls, for instance, and down a staircase to a narrow roadway in back, or they can follow a wide concrete ramp that splinters off from this path and spirals down to a smaller outdoor plaza framed by a reflecting pool and a few shops. Other paths return you to the park or out to the main street.
For some the plazas will conjure the alienating public spaces found in de Chirico paintings and Antonioni films. And one of Ms. Hadid’s aims over the years has been to rehabilitate those kinds of empty expanses, which went out of favor in the 1970s and ’80s. The difference is in her ability to convey a sense of bodies in motion. The design here is never static; there isn’t the oppressive sense of control found in some classical architecture, with its rigid perpendicular lines. At some points the curves of the paths create a sense of acceleration, propelling you forward; at others they create intimate pockets in which to loiter. Everywhere you turn, unexpected routes open up, so the architecture never feels manipulative.
The experience of openness and possibility continues right into the lobby, an airy, cathedral-like room backed by balconies that curve around the exterior of the 1,800-seat performance space. Light enters through a faceted window that wraps around the front of the lobby; at night there is a view of city’s twinkling skyline.
Stepping into the main hall is like entering the soft insides of an oyster. Seats are arranged in a slightly asymmetrical pattern, enveloping the stage on three sides, with undulant balconies cascading down in front of the stage. The concave ceiling is pierced by thousands of little lights, so that when the main lights dim before a performance it looks as if you’re sitting under the dome of a clear night sky.
The smaller hall, by contrast, is a 440-seat black-box space, the kind of room that can be easily reconfigured to fit the needs of performers and has become an ubiquitous annex to concert halls in recent decades. Here, though, it is surrounded by a billowing, white-plaster foyer that imbues it with a rare touch of sensuality.
But the biggest surprise is the way the various spaces connect. Escalators descend from both lobbies to a lower plaza, which will eventually be lined with a few shops and a cafe. (So far only a piano shop is open.) From there you can ascend the spiraling ramp back to the main plaza, or walk around a reflecting pool that extends toward the park. The sequence of spaces ties the opera house into the park around it, redeeming what until now was little-used space. As important, it establishes the opera house and its grounds as part of the public realm — something that belongs to everyone, not just elite opera fans.
As for the poor construction, many of the 75,000 exterior stone panels were so shoddily made that they are already being replaced. Some plasterwork in the lobbies looks as if it was done by an untrained worker who had never picked up a trowel before. (At one point someone obviously tried to cover up a random piece of pipe that sticks out of a lobby wall by slathering it in more plaster.)
But it may be worth remembering the challenges faced by many of the early Modernists, who pushed construction methods to the very limit in their quest for a new kind of architecture, but were often unable to find anyone with the tools or know-how to follow their lead. This was especially true in those countries that were the most underdeveloped — and that thus embraced modernity with a special fervor.
In some ways China resembles Italy just after the turn of the last century or Russia in the 1920s — countries whose faith in modernity was driven, in part, by insecurities over their own relative backwardness. Seen in that light, the Guangzhou Opera House is a monument to a particular crossroads in China’s history, as well as to Ms. Hadid’s stellar career.
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劇院由大劇場和多功能劇場兩個單體組成，總投資13.8億元人民幣。總佔地面積42393平方米， 總建築面積71197平方米，其中大劇場36400平方米，多功能劇場7400平方米，其它輔助設施26100平方米。大劇場（大石頭）地上7層，地下1 層，局部4層，層高4.5至6米，樓高43.4米，包括1800座的大劇場及其配套的備用房、劇務用房、演出用房、行政用房、錄音棚和藝術展覽廳等。多功 能劇場（小石頭）地上4層，地下1層，層高5米，樓高22.7米，包括400座的多功能劇場及配套餐廳。
工程於2005年1月18日動工建設，計劃2009年10月基本完工，次年5月投入使用。 廣州歌劇院工程以「代建制」的形式，由廣州市人民政府交由廣州市建築集團有限公司代建，負責工程招投標等工作，廣州市文化局則是業主單位。 [編輯] 工程造價 廣州歌劇院規劃工程總造價（不含地價）約8.5億元人民幣，當時已有不少人持保留意見，認為廣州歌劇院修建起來後其真實造價可能會高於預計投資額。至2004年歌劇院動工興建時，估算其工程總造價已至約10億元。截至2009年，歌劇院的總投資追加至13.8億元。巨額的投資，招致大量的反對聲音，也使廣州歌劇院的建設一度被指為「燒錢形象工程」。有報導指出，廣州歌劇院招投標存在黑幕。
当广州歌剧院(Guangzhou Opera House)于2005年破土动工时，周围还全是农田。随着工程的不断推进，周围的区域也很快随之发展起来。地处规划凌乱的珠江三角洲(Pearl River Delta)工业地带的广州，如今已经向远离传统市中心（围绕广州老城区而建）的地段发展，一直拓展至珠江新城(Pearl River New City)。广州的发展如此迅猛，折射范围如此之广，所以站在新的中央商务区(Central Business District)的任何一幢高楼上眺望，看到的是人口稠密的灰格子布局的城市圈向四处拓展，一眼望不到尽头，直至浅褐色的污染空气和因大兴土木而扬起的 水泥粉尘混杂的天际处。
几十年来，建筑师们一直在揣测未来广州新城的模样。如今他们无需再为此操心了。这座集高雅艺术与高层建筑于一体的建筑群就是答卷。当今最有才华的建 筑设计师之一的哈迪德（在官方发布的消息中把她简单地宣传为“英国最著名的建筑设计师”）主持设计了该歌剧院，她巧妙地融合了周围地形，营造出涡旋式的动 感与空间。这块开阔无比（又很平淡无奇）的地面上，歌剧院既象是天外来物，又仿佛是这一块独特地形的冲积物。
歌剧院的构思是珠江冲积出的两块砾石。灰色花岗石编织出的“大砾石”是大剧场；而黑色花岗石包裹的“小砾石“则是多功能剧场所在，两者比例颇为协 调。两幢建筑之间，地势渐趋升高，情不自禁地把观众从规划的都市吸引至这分割的流线形几何状歌剧院来，面对流淌不息的珠江、眼花缭乱的建筑风格，以及地处 翻腾变化的景区中心，它似乎都坦然处之。
它不由自主地把观众引到大厅之中，它属于典型的歌剧院风格。所有的商业性功能分区——票务、商业经营等等——都被安置至地下一层，从而使得整个大厅 在灯光的烘托下，呈现出艺术的造型，观众身临其中，感觉急切、充满期待。走廊、歌剧风格的豪华楼梯、波浪式蛇形灯，延伸出的俯冲式墙体，隔档及各个出口似 乎被动感十足的剧院消弭于无形中——所有这一切营造出一种雍容华贵的气质，这从哈迪德迄今为止设计的几件作品中就已为世人熟知——包括罗马玛茜艺术中心 (MAXXI)以及沃尔夫斯堡斐诺科技中心(Wolfsburg’s Phaeno)。
即便如此，整个建筑风格仍让人为之惊叹。从钢架大厅的白色空间，吸引着观众来到通往金色大厅的温馨入口处，金色大厅延续着其一贯的建筑风格，波浪形 的墙面往外伸出时走了样，给人一种绷紧后撕裂的感觉。容纳1800名观众的大厅巧妙地诠释了欧洲诸多大歌剧院金碧辉煌的氛围，这是个理想的演出场所，音响 效果及视觉效果上乘，恢弘与亲密之间很难拿捏的平衡关系处理得颇为得当。舞台前区常见的单纯的平面屏幕似乎与剧院内其它各个部分欢快的几何造型构成了强烈 的反差。
旁边的多功能剧院经由另一个壮观的大厅进入，水晶格子状的玻璃墙倾斜、紧拉或者延伸以与内部环境相协调。多功能剧院本身很简朴，这儿也设计了扭曲状 筛孔，而墙体则用来吸收回音；其它地方常见的那种忸怩的舞台效果这儿基本看不到。顶层的舞蹈排练厅通过玻璃墙直通公共空间，穹顶如同片片牡砺壳，灯光照射 下，营造出复杂的波浪形造型。几层包厢以及私人娱乐区悬吊在大厅半空，可以径直观赏远处灯火辉煌广州城夜景。
整个建造过程中，曾经涌现问题不断的谣传，说完工不彻底， 有时候建筑师的设计宏愿似乎超出了承建商的能力。歌剧院的演出效果取决于无缝处理，在有些地方，花岗岩的覆层切割得稍显粗糙。此外，数量众多的钢架筛条结 构以及安装在其下的雨水管（为确保外观的线条清晰）在粗重的节点上会合，从而妨碍了整座建筑的流线形。但白色墙体的总体效果以及平滑不断地在提示观众整个 设计构思源于珠江冲刷出的地貌。
中国人内心深处似乎崇尚简朴、自然的比喻：北京的“鸟巢”体育馆(Bird’s Nest Stadium)、“鸟蛋”国家大剧院(Egg theatre)，以及广州的“砾石”歌剧院。毫无疑问，正是这种简单的类比使得哈迪德的构思中标，我想这种“阴阳”黑白交互的造型以及互相呼应肯定耦合 了对中庸的诠释。但在其它方面，中国建筑仍缺乏那种让人耳目一新的唯我独尊的感觉，原因何在，也缺乏解释。广州歌剧院纯粹就是一座迷人、欢快的、纯演出性 质的剧院。
新兴城市的新地标就是先建造摩天大楼，紧接着就是兴建文化设施：正如在达拉斯与休斯顿(Dallas and Houston)已经发生过的那样，同样的情景正在多哈及阿布扎比(Doha and Abu Dhabi)上演。歌剧院似乎仍是这个阶段到来的最终标志，而广州很明显已经到了这个阶段。问题是：它接下来向何处去？