Busan Opera House Competition

City of Busan

Busan, Korea

International Competition: Opera House

Scope: Urban cultural center that brings the arts to water’s edge. Opera house plus two theaters above; grand atrium; gallery atrium and sculpture courtyard; four levels of exhibition space; observatory and event space on top levels; swimming pool; opera café; restaurants

Many of our designs explore ways to break down massing—to let in light or limit a building’s impact on its surroundings. Here, we took the opposite approach. Busan wanted a destination cultural center and offered a spectacular waterfront site—one that practically demands a highly visible structure that beckons visitors from the nearby downtown and stands at the harbor as a confident symbol of Busan’s rise. Our design is monumental in form, a kind of faceted rock that echoes the islands and scenic rocks that rise out of the sea around Busan. It achieves our vision of a vertical, sculptural building that contains the entire cultural center, which then makes room for a large expanse of outdoor space for social gathering and recreation. It also honors Korea’s tradition of garden design, in which rocks and their placement in the landscape are an essential element, and imbues the design with symbolic significance.

Landscape, in our view, should be as much a draw as the building itself. We have created an expansive lawn—next to the building and flanked by an allee of trees—that would serve as a gathering place at the heart of the developing Marine Cultural District. Other key features include an amphitheater capable of seating thousands; plaza above access roads for art fairs and other events; and bicycle rental shop located in the allee.

We proposed perforated copper for cladding. This skin would, depending on the time of day, reveal the interior spaces, most dramatically at night, as crowds come for theater performances. Inside, the perforated skin would create generous amounts of ambient light and allow dramatic views. As it aged, it would become the color of the sea.

Materials: Copper; steel; glass; concrete; granite; sandstone; wood

Boston Society of Architects, Unbuilt Architecture Award
Society of American Registered Architects, National Design Merit Award