Designs for a world-touring opera house presented by BaO, KJYAO and Pd’AA
BaO (Beijing), KJYAO (Beijing) and Pd’AA (London) collaborated on an ambitious entry for the Busan Opera House competition in South Korea. The site of the competition is located on a reclaimed island in the middle of existing docks that, in the near future, will become a new cultural zone for Busan Metropolitan City. The team proposed an OPERA ON THE MOVE as a creative response to the evolving nature of opera in the 21st century, setting new standards of presentation and production in the performing arts.
The proposal is comparable, in its huge scale, to an ocean liner, able to separate into two distinct parts: a mother ship and a nomadic opera house boat. The mobility of the floating element creates the opportunity for new configurations and new programs, both within Busan and beyond, connecting directly with other great cities on every continent and forging new possibilities for the performing arts never before attempted or achieved.
When the building is in its ‘combined’ position (theatre at dock), performance spaces may be coupled, separated, linked or sealed. When the theatre casts off and is anchored 50m away in the harbour, the lobby expands and is transformed into a semi-outdoor dock, between the two main performance spaces, where informal events can take place. An outdoor auditorium also appears in the void created on the roof of the mobile theatre.
When the mobile theatre is offshore, the resulting negative imprint left behind in the main building may be reprogrammed. The void not only becomes a spatial memory of the missing object but also a programmatic indetermination where new possibilities are triggered. The contrast between the delicacy and softness of the Opera House auditoriums and this new dock-like quality with its roughness and harbour edge condition is manifest of our ambition to challenge predetermined consensus on ‘adequate and inadequate’ spaces for performance arts.
The floating theatre is conceived as an abstract piece of building that resembles a strange geometrical sealed volume. The awkward ‘carapace’ of the floating theatre is directly derived from its programme (vertical fly box, main-sides-rear stage, auditorium blind box, sloping outdoor theatre on the roof) so as to expose a spatial organisation that is usually hidden in traditional opera houses. When the floating theatre casts off, a formal play between voids and planes occurs. An outdoor stepped theatre appears on top of the mobile element as it separates itself from the lecture hall in the main building, an empty dock appears right in the middle of the Opera House, new circulation routes and vistas open up.
The play between solid and void, negative and positive is an important aspect of the formal language of the proposal, blurring distinctions between interior and exterior, and opening up the surroundings to a wider operatic potential. The mobile theatre, not only makes a positive connection between the city of Busan and the world beyond, but also, when it sails away leaves behind a negative space, creating a psychological ambiguity that adds to the iconic quality of Busan Opera House.