Steven Chilton Architects has designed a forest of white columns and a latticed metallic roof covering the Wuxi Show Theater in Wuxi, China. Located close to Lake Taihu in Jiangsu Province, China, the Wuxi Show Theatre concept was inspired by the Sea of Bamboo Park in Yixing, the largest bamboo forest in China. When the Wuxi Show Theatre opens in December 2019 it will hold 2,000 theatre-goers and provide a permanent home for Belgian theatre director Franco Dragone’s show, the House of Dancing Water.
The building’s appearance is composed of three primary elements, the columns, the shade canopy, and the building envelope. Representing an abstract impression of a bamboo forest, the slender white columns are positioned around the perimeter of the building in such a way as to provide a screen between the building façade and the surrounding landscape. The bamboo columns clear around the various entrances to help frame the accesses into the building.
The shade canopy wraps around the perimeter of the building at roof level. Conceptually, it represents the canopy of leaves that exist at the top of a bamboo forest. The canopy is made up of various triangular bays containing rows of gold anodized aluminum louvers.
Each bay is orientated randomly to create an organic quality to the structure and light and shade patterns that fall across the building envelope through the day. Each bay of louvers is also set at different angles to heighten the sense of variation when viewed from different angles.
Structurally, each bay of louvers is supported on a triangular lattice structure that braces the tops of the columns and transfers their load into the primary structure of the building. The environmental purpose of the shade canopy and columns are to provide shade over the surface of the façade to passively lower the cooling load on the building.
The building envelope is primarily composed of rendered and painted block-work and curtain wall glazing. The glazing is the full height of the building in and above the entrance lobby to provide maximum views into and out of the main public areas. It is fretted with white and gold stripes that travel the full height of the building mimicking the ‘bamboo’ columns and contributing to the effect of the building being the outer edge of a forest of bamboo.
At night, the building envelop is illuminated from below, becoming an ethereal beacon, glimpsed between the forest of ‘bamboo’ columns, drawing spectators and audience in from across the lake and surrounding development.