Scottish firm Keppie Design secures first project in China
Keppie’s work on a new 800 seat community theatre for central Huangshan began in earnest in September of 2009. Huangshan is around five hours drive west from Shanghai.
The architects' first thoughts were predicated on their understanding of the theatre’s place as part of a developing community. An opportunity to use the building’s envelope as part of the theatrical process itself lead them to an outline concept of the auditorium as a solid object set like a jewel within a more transparent and permeable glass box. The potential for the boundary between external and internal public realm to be blurred was an interesting idea for Keppie Design's team. So too was the possibility of the façade being a canvas upon which continual movement could reflect the vibrancy of performance itself.
The context that the design team were asked to respond to presented an elaborate recreation of very traditional Chinese forms articulated as a static set piece in front of the main volumes of the theatre’s site. Whilst it was clearly important to understand the role of traditional Chinese architecture, the architects felt it equally important that a new civic building in a modern community also hinted at an architectural language which can find cultural recognition through it’s clarity of conceptual approach and a clearly structured application of craft based construction.
The design proposals were received favourably by the client’s interview committee that included the project sponsor, Mr Wien Chen; the famous director of the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony. This project has now been fully designed and is about to commence on site. Its success is down to Keppie’s rigorous approach of research and analysis of the cultural and social context of all of their projects, and it has directly led to more than twenty current projects and direct enquiries that the practice is now working on.