Snøhetta just won the competition for the Shanghai Grand Opera House, set to rise in the Expo Houtan neighborhood of the Chinese city.

The Oslo and New York–based firm’s design centers around a massive corkscrew stair that connects the theater’s roof to an entry plaza that then runs down to the banks of the nearby Huangpu River.

Rendering of a building from a plaza in front of it

The building’s grand stair (MIR and Snøhetta)

The grand public plaza and gently-sloped roof are meant to create a generous new public space in the vein of what the firm did for its Oslo Opera House. Other aspects of the Shanghai Grand resemble the Oslo project: three theaters pop through the overall roof, and a large glass wall surrounds the main lobby. The new building trades in the Oslo Opera’s crisp, sculptural form for a looser, radiating geometry.

Interestingly, the designers did not mention the Oslo Opera House as a related project but named several others in the firm’s oeuvre.

“The Shanghai Grand Opera House is a natural progression of our previous work with designing performing arts centers,” says Snøhetta founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen in a statement. “It is a culmination of the competence and insight gained through projects such as the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Busan Opera House in South Korea, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Canada, and the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers renovation in Paris. The Shanghai Grand Opera House is a product of our contextual understanding and values, designed to promote public ownership of the building for the people of Shanghai and beyond.”

Like Oslo, most of the building’s exterior is off-white, presumably concrete, but the lobby is lined with bright red silk.

There will be three theaters in the building: a 2,000-seat main auditorium, 1,200-seat second stage, and a 1,000-seat third stage. The smaller spaces are meant for less traditional shows to connect with a “younger audience,” according to the designers.

Rendering of a dark theater lobby with red walls

The red, silk-lined lobby (MIR and Snøhetta)

The project will be completed in collaboration with the Shanghai-based firm ECADI.

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