Culture clash....

Wednesday 24 Oct 2007

Paul Andreu's Beijing Grand Theatre stirs the dragon

It was always going to be an audacious project and here it is, against all odds, a huge contemporary theatre complex adjacent to Tiananmen Square and Beijing’s ancient Forbidden City. It boasts a vast array of nicknames ranging from the eggshell to the jellyfish. The new National Centre for Performing Arts, to use its official title is a vast steel envelope, clad in titanium and glass encasing three auditoria. Emerging out of an artificial lake, the entrance is by way of a subterranean gallery. Trial performances have been taking place ahead of an official opening on December 25th to be presided over by President Hu Jinto. Andreu’s brave design has been controversial from the start. The project, one of the major architectural flagships of the Chinese capital planned to coincide with next year’s Olympics has been plagued with detractors even before work was started. Firstly the cost, at $400 million was seen by many Beijinger’s as an unnecessary expense and branded as “elitist”, a particularly sensitive issue for any Communist government. Then came the design, clearly not everyone was going to warm to the Parisian’s adventurous form - and they didn’t. Many believe the building upsets the Feng Shui of central Beijing. Professor Alfred Peng of Tsinghua University, one of its fiercest critics, says the building is unsuitable for Beijing. "It's totally out of place, it doesn't fit within the whole. It's all courtyard houses around here. This doesn't integrate with any urban fabric in this neighbourhood." Further, he believes that the theatre is disconnected from the surrounding hutongs, Beijing's traditional courtyard houses, and the people who more

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Images (from left to right): 1-4 the Grand Theatre and image 5 shows some 300 Chinese pianists gathering to perform at the Shenyang stadium, in northeastern China's Liaoning province. Organizers claimed the performance set a new Guinness World Record for the largest piano recital.

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