Hailed as ‘the best of its kind in Asia’, the newly opened DaGuan (or ‘Grand’) Theatre at the Himalayas Centre is certainly an impressive undertaking.
Having already hosted an episode of Chinese Idol and a performance of renowned composer Tan Dun’s Martial Arts Cycle with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the flexible space covers almost 10,000 sqm and can seat over a thousand people.
Housed on the third floor of the Zendai Himalayas Art Centre inside the skeletal, Gaudi-esque Pudong structure which also includes the Jumeirah Hotel and was designed by Arata Isozaki, the theatre was developed by French firm AS-Architecture Studio who say they wanted to create ‘an intimate, magic environment, cut off from the urban reality.’
Audience members enter a spacious main room with banks of seating and patterned oval discs suspended from the high ceiling above. Retractable seating means that the theatre can be altered to provide for a variety of stage set-ups, including traditional theatre, T-stage and central stage (boxing ring style) layouts.
A specially-designed computer programme enables the height of the floor’s central portion to be adjusted according to the requirements of the performance.
The curved, pillar-less structure allows for unspoilt views from both the ground floor and the second floor balconies and was ‘conceived like the cave of a dragon’ according to AS-Architecture Studio.
‘The setting is inspired by Chinese traditional imaginative worlds, while preserving contemporary shapes and features. The setting is organic and mysterious.’
Naturally, the space features state of the art sound and lighting equipment and some of the best acoustics in the city. British firm Theatre Projects Consultants, who have helped develop international projects such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Oslo Opera House in addition to working on the Shanghai Symphony Concert Hall, were involved in the engineering of the DaGuan Theatre’s stage to ensure a top class acoustic experience.
The aim for the theatre is to become a ‘cultural hub’, hosting theatre, concert and other performance events in addition to private functions and more TV shows. It’s a hugely ambitious venue, but one which should see Pudong’s cultural capital rise significantly.