In a nod to Chinese craftsmanship, London-based Steven Chilton Architects (SCA) has designed a stunning theater based on traditional ivory puzzle balls. Located in Guangzhou, the proposed Puzzle Ball Theater pays homage to these intricate puzzles by using circular openings and geometric cutouts across the spherical facade.
Ivory puzzle balls are formed from concentric balls, often up to 10 or 12, with open carving. To solve the puzzle, the balls need to be rotated until all the holes are aligned. (Like a Rubik’s Cube of its day, puzzle balls were quite popular in the 19th and early-20th century.) SCA achieves a similar feel through the use of cutting-edge technology.
The theater’s main entrance is built up from offset circular openings, which provide depth and give the illusion of multiple spheres embedded within one another. Along the surface of the dome, a computer program has created a striking geometric pattern that recalls the local carving on wood shutters. These dramatic touches not only enhance the 2,000-seat theater’s aesthetic, but allow for daylight to filter into the lobby.
Higher up the dome, the facade remains closed off in order to ward off unwanted heat gain from the sun. SCA also increased the efficiency of the design by using a limited range of panel shapes. This decision will cut down on fabrication time and ensure a high level of quality control.
Should SCA win the competition to build the theater, it will house a permanent show dedicated to local culture. This wouldn’t be the firm’s first experience building in Guangzhou, though. Their Yue Show Theater is currently under construction and is set to open in late 2019. The building, whose fiery red facade is inspired by the movement of silk, will house a permanent water show.