Steven Chilton Architects takes iconic forms found in China and creates amazing structural works. Similar to what was done with the Wuxi TAIHU Theatre, the Puzzle Ball Theatre is a structural proposal set to be located in the Haudu District of Guangzhou, China.
The proposed theater is said to hold a total of 2,000 seated guests as well as housing an original show inspired by the local Yue culture. Each sphere is intricately carved showcasing an arrangement of concentric spheres. Typically comprised of 10 concentric spherical layers, traditional Chinese puzzle balls are known for their beauty, enigmatic nature, and craftsmanship. Taking these elements, Steven Chilton and his team applied these characteristics into the overall design of the theater.
According to Chilton, the overall concept and design for the theater was inspired by a jade puzzle ball he saw housed in the Guangdong Museum in Guangzhou. With this literal design concept adapted into the theater, the decision to use a spherical mass was also made due to the efficiency in its surface area to volume ratio. Its primary structure is made of twin steel tubular domes connected by spherical nodes. The structure's facade is built from glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GRC) clad panels as well as aluminum panels made with integrated glazing units. The detailed geometric shapes found on its facade were modeled after the wooden window shutters originating from the area.
Mimicking the forms found in Chinese puzzle balls, construction and fabrication of the panels surrounding the shape was developed to ensure the speed of production and manufacturing while highlighting the intricacies of its model subject. The use of a triangular grid aided in the structural layering of each dome structure. With a series of hierarchical subdivisions, each layered panel was distributed across the grid. The main entrance to the theater is comprised of spherical surfaces offset from one another, creating an overlapping pattern around its center. The asymmetric overlapping of each spherical pattern assisted in creating an intricate theater entrance.
By using a recognizable form found within the Chinese culture, Chilton and his team have taken theater design to new heights. The interiority and exteriority of the space create an illustrious shape that is as dazzling as the Chinese puzzle balls they're modeled after. The theater is a complicatedly fascinating series of spherical transitions that encompass the heritage of the region while highlighting detailed heterogeneous panelization.
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