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Arup lets the music play in China

A legend of two friends united by their love of music is the inspiration behind Arup Associates' proposal for a new performing arts centre in China.

The practice is on a shortlist of seven competing to design the Qintai Cultural and Arts Centre in Wuhan. The bid is part of a move by Arup Associates to break into the lucrative Chinese market and follows a competition win to masterplan a new university at Guangzhou. Four Chinese design institutes, a Japanese practice and a US practice are also in the running, with a decision due later this month.

A pair of sculpted monoliths housing the concert and opera halls dominate the scheme. The brief demanded the form of the buildings respond to both the legend of the two friends, Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi, and the theme of 'high mountain, flowing water'.

Both buildings are conceived as layered spaces, with voluminous envelopes clothing the solid performance halls within. The larger, pyramidal structure accommodates a 1,800-seat Grand Theatre and a smaller concert hall fits inside the horizontal monolith. The halls are accoustically sophisticated to house both Chinese and Western operatic traditions.

A landscape strategy, developed with Townshend Landscape Architects, features a new parkland on Yuehu Lake's northern shore.

It fits within an ambitious programme for Wuhan - a large industrial city at the confluence of the Han and Yangtze rivers - to wind back the creeping development around the park and create new connections between the city's three main districts.

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