Puzzle Ball Theatre

Steven Chilton Architects surprises again with an unusual concept for the domed theatre in Guangzhou, China.
28 December, 2018
Shaped like an intricately carved ivory puzzle ball the building is aimed to recall a Chinese puzzle ball, decorated ornaments of which are made of concentric spheres carved from a single piece of ivory. Solving one requires rotating each sphere until the holes align.
The 2,000-seat theatre will be shaped like a ball and its entrance will be surrounded by layers of offset circular openings, getting smaller and smaller until the exterior meets the interior.

"Revered for their beauty, mystery and inherent mastery, they are the embodiment of the qualities and characteristics the architecture aspires to evoke," explained the architect.

The structure's facade is built from glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GRC) clad panels as well as aluminum panels made with integrated glazing units. The detailed geometric shapes found on its facade were modeled after the wooden window shutters originating from the area.
Image: Dezeen
London-based Steven Chilton Architects used a generative design software to create the interlocking shapes for the cladding panels.

"We wanted to cover the spherical form with a limited set of panel sizes and shapes in order to increase the speed and quality of manufacturing whilst reducing the time required for fabrication," explained the architect.

"We [also] wanted to develop an approach that would allow us to capture the complexity and differential porosity that is a characteristic of real puzzle balls, but in way that responded to the specific program requirements of the theatre."

Image: Dezeen
A triangular grid was mapped onto a geodesic polyhedron, which engineers had calculated was best suited to the twin-layer steel dome supporting structure.

Different Rhombus and trapezoid-shaped panels were generated using computer programs to create the intricate surface design.

There is also a practical side of this unusual design. Wide gapes right in the center of the panels will allow daylight to enter the main hall, however the fact that the top of the dome is closed, will keep the theater cool.

Image: Dezeen
When complete, the Puzzle Ball Theatre will host a permanent show based around local culture.

Steven Chilton Architects has also designed a circular theatre in Wuxi with a canopy of golden louvres over a forest of slim white columns.

Banner image: Dezeen