MAD Architects create musical venue sculpted by wind and water

MAD Architects create sweeping and stylised musical venue in remote landscape.

The forces of nature and a freezing wetland wilderness have combined to inspire a major new cultural centre from MAD Architects.

The urban design team has unveiled the Harbin Opera House in Northern China – a sinuous structure which appears to be sculpted by wind and water.


In 2010, MAD won the international open competition for Harbin Cultural Island, a master plan for an opera house, a cultural centre, and the surrounding wetland landscape along Harbin’s Songhua River. 

The sinuous opera house is the focal point of the Cultural Island, occupying a building area of approximately 79.000 m2. It features a grand theatre that can host over 1,600 spectators and a smaller theatre to accommodate an intimate audience of 400.

Embedded within Harbin’s wetlands, the Harbin Opera House was designed in response to what the architects called “the force and spirit of the northern untamed wilderness and frigid climate”.


The building seamlessly blends in with nature and the topography—a transfusion of local identity, art, and culture.

Ma Yansong, founding principal at MAD Architects said: “We envision Harbin Opera House as a cultural centre of the future – a tremendous performance venue, as well as a dramatic public space that embodies the integration of human, art and the city identity, while synergistically blending with the surrounding nature.”

On the exterior, the architecture references the landscape of the surrounding area. The resulting curvilinear façade composed of white aluminium panels fuses edge and surface, softness and sharpness.
Upon entering the grand lobby, visitors will see large transparent glass walls spanning the grand lobby, visually connecting the curvilinear interior with the swooping façade and exterior plaza.

Curving organic lines for both main audience space and boxes.

Curving organic lines for both main audience space and boxes.

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