Strait Culture and Arts Centre SCAC, Fuzhou, China
PES-Architects Consulting China Co. Ltd
1F, 6 Building, 1500 Lane, Kongjiang Road
Yangpu District, Shanghai 200092, P.R. China
SCAC Fuzhou birdseye side, Photo Marc Goodwin
1. Design Specifications
In 2013, the government of Fuzhou organised an international competition for the Strait Culture and Arts Centre with the aim of strengthening the cultural image of the city and the development area of Mawei New Town. The winning proposal from PES-Architects aimed to provide an exceptional experience for the ordinary user by creating a new type of cultural shopping mall. The center's cultural program will be complemented by commercial and family entertainment to create a modern hybrid complex. This format is typical of the new phase of cultural construction in China.
During the competition phase, the design team created the award-winning proposal for the creation of a central lobby called "Concourse Lobby", open all day, connecting all five separate venues. This concept, in combination with five spacious multifunctional event spaces, the so-called "Curved Galleries", was intended to ensure flexible use of the public spaces. It should create a model for a playful connection between the arts and people and promote the growth of local creativity and art production. This is a new concept for China and it is one of the main reasons why the project was chosen by the client.
Basic map data Copyright by Google Maps
The Strait Culture and Arts Centre in Mawei New Town, opposite the Minjiang River, is a place of connections. It connects cities and communities along and across the Taiwan Strait. It connects the Fuzhou Mawei New City Development and its waterways with the Minjiang River and the natural environment. And finally, it connects the people with the culture.
The property is divided into two parts by the LiangCuo overflow. Together with the central Jasmine Square, the building forms a "public bridge" over the separating river overflow. The South Binjiang Road was diverted around the property to allow a full connection of the new public square to the river bank. "Riverside Petal" decks, including a café and outdoor amphitheatre, extend into the water and provide opportunities for spontaneous public performances or group activities.
The Fuzhou Strait Culture and Arts Centre will be the starting point for the urban development of Mawei New Town. The groundbreaking public building concept did not have to follow any particular architectural constraints or styles, but it responds architecturally clearly to the context of the location on the waterfront, referring to the ancient maritime silk road history of Fuzhou and also evoking sailing ships in a harbour ready to explore the world.
SCAC Fuzhou facade night, Photo Marc Goodwin
3. Architecture and use of Space
On closer inspection, the design is inspired by the petals of a jasmine flower, the city flower of Fuzhou. The flower manifests itself in the formal language and colour of the architecture. The five jasmine flower venues are as follows:
- A Multifunctional theatre Plans Multifunctional theatre
- B Opera Plans Opera
- C Concerthall
- D Art exhibition hall
- E Cinema centre
They are connected by a cultural hall and a large roof terrace. The roof terrace is accessible via two ramps from Jasmine Park and Central Jasmine Plaza and seamlessly connects the complex with the Minjiang Riverbank. In the basement, along the LiangCuo Flood, there is a shopping street called "Shopping River", which connects the landscape with the interiors and provides a functional connection to the metro station and the new city center.
The division of the large complex into smaller units gives the centre a more human dimension and makes it easier for users to navigate indoors and outdoors. Each building has a core area - a semi-public "Curved Gallery" that follows the curvature of the main façade and connects the public interior with the landscape of the "Jasmingärten" around the building and further with the Mahangzhou Island Nature Reserve in front of the building.
4. Performance Rooms
The three individual performance rooms each have different characteristics that strongly reflect their individual functions.
SCAC Fuzhou multifunctional hall, Photo Marc Goodwin
A The Multifunctional Theatre
The Multifunctional Theatre is based on a classic "shoe box" layout with a total of 702 seats, some of which can be folded down. The reason for choosing bamboo in the multi-purpose hall is that natural "wood" is acoustically an ideal material and reflects the beauty of wooden instruments. In addition, two strong arguments for using bamboo are that it is ecologically sustainable and that it is a genuine Chinese material.
SCAC Fuzhou opera hall, Photo Marc Goodwin
B The Opera Hall
The Opera Hall with 1600 seats is based on the classic "horseshoe" layout. The walls are covered with ceramic tiles in various warm shades of grey and combine 13 floral motifs to form a continuous 3000 m2 pattern, the "Jasmine Branches". The complex side walls of the Opera House have been carefully shaped to optimise the coverage of the early lateral reflections towards the public on the ground floor and balconies. Convex and concave curvatures were combined into a complex wall sculpture that behaves like a large and efficient acoustic reflector while avoiding unwanted focusing effects from the curved geometry.
Plan SCAC B Opera Auditorium Main Stalls Scale 1:250
Plan SCAC B Opera Auditorium 1st Balcony Scale 1:250
SCAC Fuzhou opera hall pano, Photo Marc Goodwin
Acoustics Opera Hall
The shape of the interior of the Opera Hall was completely developed on the basis of acoustic requirements. The 3D model was exchanged several times with the room acousticians and all surfaces were optimized several times with the help of acoustic raytracing scripts. The result is a complex surface geometry that completely follows the acoustic function. In the non-acoustic parts of the halls, such as the access corridors, the free-form shapes were continued. Cave-like tunnels connect the foyer with the three auditorium levels.
SCAC Fuzhou opera hall side balcony, Photo Marc Goodwin
The Opera Hall tile pattern has been designed to meet both acoustic needs and curvature suitability. The tiles had to be small enough to smoothly cover the highly complex, double curved surfaces. At the same time, the depth of the tile topography and the depth of the seams had to be developed according to precise acoustic requirements.
SCAC Fuzhou concert hall frontal, Photo Virgile Simon Bertrand
C The Concert Hall
In the Concert Hall with 1000 seats, the acoustic optimisation of all reflective surfaces achieved a rich reverberation and uncompromising musical clarity. Two levels with convex curved, inclined walls surround the orchestra and the audience, creating a multitude of early lateral and enveloping reflections and an intimate space at the same time. Specific zones within these walls were provided with a diffuse acoustic treatment consisting of a pseudo-random pattern of protruding ceramic tiles. A floral pattern similar to the traditional blue and white porcelain pattern, reinterpreted in modern graphics, was engraved into the surfaces of the tiles by a CNC machine, the design inspired by the Yuan Dynasty "Scrolling Peonies" pattern.
SCAC Fuzhou concert hall, Photo Marc Goodwin
The overall shape of the Concert Hall icons consists entirely of large-format spherical fragments. These are dimensioned and arranged in such a way that the lateral reflections towards the audience are maximized. The 3D model was exchanged several times with the acousticians and all surface alignments were optimized on this basis. The result is a complex form that fully follows the acoustic functions, but also creates a formal language that is visually convincing.
The individual spherical surfaces are lined with topographical ceramic types, some of which are completely flat, others with an angled 3D shape. The tiles were arranged according to acoustic needs; the flat "quiet" tiles were placed where reflection was required, and the shaped "stormy" tiles were installed where the surface needed to become diffuse. A complex calculation script was developed to find the final randomized pattern and exact location for each ceramic tile.
SCAC Fuzhou foyer void Photo Marc Goodwin
4. Appearance and Surface
The Strait Culture and Arts Centre was in many ways a special project for PES Architects. After the Wuxi Grand Theatre (completion 2012), where the office presented bamboo on a large scale and in an innovative way as material for a sophisticated public performance, bamboo was used again.
In Fuzhou we rediscovered ceramics as the second typical Chinese material for the project. The ceramic material is used differently in several key areas throughout the process.
SCAC Fuzhou opera hall side entrance Photo, Marc Goodwin
The Ceramic Tiles of the Opera House
The hexagonal ceramic tile element used for the installation in the Opera House has coped well with the double-curved surface, although it is obvious that a two-dimensional pattern cannot completely cover such a complex surface geometry. In highly curved areas, the pattern quickly begins to "tear". These gaps in the regular pattern were closed by manually placing individual tiles, which were precisely defined by the design team.
The biggest challenge in on-site installation was developing the right type of adhesive. First, all the gaps between the tiles were designed to remain deep so that the adhesive remains visible. In order to achieve an acceptable appearance, a specially shaped trowel was used to create a discreet and even glue pattern. Since a large part of the tiles cover the ceiling surfaces, the second challenge was the curing time of the adhesive and its durability to allow the laying in general and avoid loosening of the tiles over time.
SCAC Fuzhou concert hall, Photo Virgile Simon Bertrand
The Ceramic Tiles of the Concert Hall
For the concert hall, the assembly team was provided with a precise 3D model of the tile installation with each tile and numbering, including detailed assembly instructions. The exact location of the tiles was crucial for the success of the detailing quality and the appearance of the entire hall. The parametric design was developed so that the tiles always lie flat on the edge of the surfaces to allow a standardised joint detail. Due to the subtle double curvature of the spherical fragment wall pieces, the script had to take into account a tolerance in the seam width and at the same time ensure that the lines of the pattern were drawn through. As the individual tiles are of considerable weight, each tile contains a mechanical fixing anchor in addition to the adhesive product to ensure additional security for the fixation of the tiles.
The tiles were manufactured in moulds, but due to the deformation during the firing phase, it was necessary to recalibrate the tiles by precision grinding to ensure that the tiles fit perfectly into the complex mathematical pattern and allow a flawless engraving process. The result was a product that meets the high visual demands of the concert hall.
SCAC Fuzhou ceramic and bamboo facade, Photo Virgile Simon Bertrand
The Exterior Ceramic Lamella Facade "China White
The ceramic panels of the main facade consist of 42,250 ceramic lamellas, each 1.75 m long and with white glazing. Each section is lenticular in shape in relation to the formal language used in the building, but also to maximise the shading capacity of the façade. Complex scripting tools were used to determine the optimum angle and distance between the slats. The pattern was developed with the help of another specially developed font to do justice to the double curvature of the facade surface and at the same time obtain a uniform element size for the entire facade.
The front and rear surfaces are based on a close distance between the ground level curve and the roof edge curve. This results in a developing, double-curved facade surface geometry, i.e. the lower and upper curves can be connected via straight vectors. The steel columns of the main facade strictly follow this geometry.
A set of curved steel tubes for the secondary facade is diagonally stacked over the main columns. The special feature is that these diagonal elements are located on the outside of the facade, structurally connected to the main columns by structural "arms". While the distance between the straight main columns increases upwards, the diagonal secondary pipes are arranged in such a way that the c/c distance is exactly 1.80 m everywhere. Thus a standardized ceramic baguette element of 1.75 m length could be applied to the entire facade.
The glazing surfaces are also double-bent to a certain extent. Since the glass is easy to bend and sealant tolerances were accepted to a certain degree, it was optimal to divide the glazing parts into trapezoidal planes. This allowed the use of flat glass parts and avoids the usual and less efficient triangulation pattern.
SCAC Fuzhou multifunctional hall elevation, Photo Marc Goodwin
Multi-purpose hall bamboo wall
The multi-purpose hall for the Strait Culture and Arts Centre is basically a shoe box with a total of 702 seats (78 on the first balcony and 118 on the second). The ground floor has 15 rows on a retractable seating group and 7 rows on the flat floor in front of it. The hall is 16.75 m wide and approx. 40 m long. The stage is 11 m wide and 11 m deep. On both sides there are small, 6 m deep side stages. The hall has no actual stage tower, but the height of the auditorium and the stage is 16.5 m, which allows the use of the scenery with approx. 7 m high stage opening.
The reason for choosing bamboo in the multipurpose hall is that natural "wood" is acoustically an ideal material and reflects the beauty of wooden instruments. Furthermore, two strong arguments for the use of bamboo are that it is ecologically sustainable and that it is a genuine Chinese material.
It was required that the weight of the surface material in the auditorium should be at least 35 kg/m² and that all surfaces should respond accurately to the acoustic requirements of the room, with some areas reflective and others diffuse. We have learned in previous projects that this was possible with the use of solid bamboo. Therefore, the entire interior of the auditorium was covered with solid bamboo blocks that are both dense and heavy. This not only solved the acoustic requirements of the room, but also our architectural goal of creating a warm and intimate atmosphere for the audience with a harmonious and authentic feel with just one uniform material.
In general, there are two different types of bamboo to choose from:
- Classic "laminated wood" carbonized bamboo. The use of the well-known natural pattern and colour of the bamboo makes the appearance of this material particularly authentic. The undesirable yellowish hue can be mitigated using the carbonation technique.
- Strand woven bamboo. This is a more modern and homogeneous material which forms firm blocks of crushed and pressed bamboo fibres. The much heavier blocks offer an acoustic advantage over classic bamboo.
Due to the modern technology development, the classic bamboo could recently also obtain the required fire protection classification, and so we decided on this option (compared to the strand woven bamboo type used, for example, in the Wuxi Grand Theatre). Colour tests have been carried out to ensure that the colour tone is correct and the distribution in the material is uniform and homogeneous. A light and fresh desaturated bamboo shade was selected.
Bamboo has been neglected and underestimated by architects and designers in China. One of the reasons could be that for centuries bamboo was known as "poor man's timber" and is therefore not suitable for representative public spaces. Through its use, we believe that we have initiated a kind of "bamboo boom" in China that revives its aesthetic qualities, and we continue to promote its use, believing that in many ways it is a material of the future.
We continue to believe that modern computer-aided design and manufacturing tools can help reunite and reinvent traditional Chinese wood art.
The complex geometry and manufacturing process of the bamboo blocks has been solved using modern digital technology. With the 3D modelling software Rhinoceros, the required block shapes were created, which are on average 1000 mm long, 160 mm high and approx. 80 mm thick, which were then cut using the latest CNC technology.
Each block has two vertical 11 mm holes drilled through it, into which two 10 mm steel threaded rods are inserted and securely attached to the secondary steel frame installed between the line of the bamboo wall and the concrete wall. The shape of the bamboo block was only allowed to have a maximum installation tolerance of 1/2 mm.
SCAC Fuzhou curved gallery, Photo Marc Goodwin
Curved Gallery Bamboo Wall
Each of the five main buildings is accessible via a generously curved gallery room. These rooms serve as foyers to the venues, but are also used for flexible events such as exhibitions and banquets. One side of these long, curved and tall rooms is clad with a fully glazed facade overlooking the gardens of the "flowing hills". On the other hand, a double curved mega surface is completely covered with bamboo slats.
Due to the fire regulations and the shape of the wall (partly wall, partly roof) it was necessary to use aluminium slats with bamboo veneer for the higher areas of the surface. Solid bamboo profiles are used on the lower parts. The total area of these bamboo surfaces is 18,800m2 and contains more than 60,000 bamboo slats. Each grid has a length of 1.8 m and a height of 100 mm. Air conditioning features and sound absorption surfaces are completely concealed behind the lamella surface.
SCAC Fuzhou foyer detail, Photo Marc Goodwin
5. Sustainability, Energy Saving and Innovation
List of the most important elements to reduce the energy consumption of the building
- Passive design, including optimization of building forms and realized external shading
- Cooling energy that is completely obtained from river water as a renewable resource.
- Use of sustainable materials such as bamboo and ceramic products.
- Use of local materials such as bamboo and ceramic products
- Implementation of long-life/ high-quality/ low-maintenance details and materials
- Implementation of permeable landscape and parking areas for rainwater control
- Sustainability strategy
The main environmental strategy of the Strait Culture and Arts Centre is to seek high quality, durable and timeless design solutions, both architectural and technical. Particularly in the Chinese context, this has the greatest impact on the project's CO2 footprint, resulting in a long building life with the lowest maintenance requirements. The secondary strategy for material selection was to select local products over foreign ones. For the Strait Culture and Arts Centre, several sustainable materials were used and individually developed. The widespread use of bamboo material is one example. Bamboo material is a rapidly growing renewable resource that significantly reduces the building's CO2 footprint. It is used as one of the main materials for the interiors on the curved gallery walls, for the foyer floors of the venue and in all three venues.
The other sustainable and very local materials are the ceramic products used for all facades, for paving and as interior material in the concert and opera halls. Ceramics consist of natural components and can be recycled.
Shading facade / passive construction method
The external facade shading was developed as one of the most important passive constructions.
Energy saving measures in the Fuzhou SCAC project. As the building is located in the subtropical climate region, energy is mainly used for cooling. By avoiding solar gains in the high glazed foyer areas, energy consumption for cooling can be significantly reduced. Here, too, a complex computer script was developed to find the best possible distance and angle of rotation of the ceramic lamellas in order to achieve maximum shadow effect, especially in the hot season.
Strategy for renewable energies
The Strait Culture and Arts Centre uses water from the Minjiang Tidal River as a primary energy source for its heat pump systems. The annual average water temperature of the Minjiang River is between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius. The water consumption of the building is approx. 3000m3/h. Water is taken upstream and discharged downstream, with Mahangzhou Island serving as a buffer in between. Compared to a conventional system, the water heat pump system in combination with heat recovery units is able to significantly reduce CO2 emissions.
"Sponge City" Principles
By replacing concrete ceilings with wetlands and other types of permeable surfaces, rainwater is reabsorbed into the land, so the water works for the city, not against it. The Sponge City in general aims to alleviate problems such as urban water accumulation, groundwater loss, surface water pollution and sea level rise.
Fuzhou is a city in the delta of the Minjiang River, where the subtropical climate brings abundant rainfall. Rainwater for the Strait Culture and Arts Centre is divided into two categories: rainwater on the roof of the building and rainwater on the construction site. The flower-shaped building roofs, stored in two large underground water tanks on the site, are able to collect rainwater efficiently (similar to the leaves of plants). After purification, the rainwater is used for irrigation and grey water recycling for daily use. The water that drains from the garden areas is also collected, but the design aims to absorb most of it. This is done using "sponge city" strategies such as rain gardens, sunken lawns and grass drains, as well as the use of permeable paving materials.
Safety and Security
Wind tunnel tests were conducted to ensure that Strait Culture and Arts Centre structures and facades could withstand the strongest Category 4 typhoon. The building facade materials and fixing details were designed according to these tests. The titanium zinc roof structures were reinforced with special reinforcements and the main façade blinds were reinforced with a pair of inlaid aluminium profiles to prevent material from coming off the building.
The security standards for the interior of the building in China are very strict, and simple compliance with the codes guarantees that it provides a safe environment. On the contrary, when developing public buildings, it is often important to convince the builder that he allows people to enter the building during the day in order to promote a more efficient, functional, cultural and sustainable building concept against common security measures. In the case of the Strait Culture and Arts Centre project, the main functional and cultural concept is to keep the lobby of the Cultural Concourse open all day.
Fire protection strategy
The internationally accepted fire simulation method is not accepted in China. Therefore, all fire extinguishing systems adhere strictly to the national and regional fire protection regulations, which are very strict, especially in Fujian Province. With regard to public event buildings, this results in a combination of maximum size fireboxes, densely arranged sprinklers and, for larger rooms, additional heat-sensitive water cannon systems. In addition, the material regulations in China are very strict, so that only A-class refractory materials or all ceiling surfaces were used.