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Azure's July/August 2019 Issue cover
Current Issue

July/August 2019

#273
July/August 2019

From a groundbreaking seaside museum in China to an elegant new sofa by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Azure’s July/August issue unveils the 20 winners of the ninth annual AZ Awards!

AZ Awards 2019 Winner: Officina Sofa
Words
Stefan Novakovic
AZ Awards, Meridiana, Davide Groppi
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: Meridiana
Words
Stefan Novakovic
The Arbour, George Brown College, Moriyama Teshima, Acton Ostry, Toronto
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: The Arbour
Words
Stefan Novakovic
Imago, Kanva, Montreal, AZ Awards
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: Imago
Words
Stefan Novakovic
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: BRIGHT
Words
Stefan Novakovic
Michigan Loft, AZ Awards 2019, Vladimir Radutny Architects
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: Michigan Loft
Words
Stefan Novakovic
AK/25 Faucet, AZ Awards
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: AK/25 Faucet
Words
Stefan Novakovic
Xorel Vue, Carnegie Fabrics, AZ Awards
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: Xorel Vue
Words
Stefan Novakovic
Park Collection, Allsteel, AZ Awards 2019
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: Park
Words
Stefan Novakovic
520 West 28th, Zaha Hadid, AZ Awards
AZ Awards 2019 Winner: 520 West 28th
Words
Stefan Novakovic
Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre

Above ground, the Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre announces its presence with light. A mirrored entry pavilion with circular skylights leads visitors to the entrance, where they descend a series of escalators deep underground. It’s a bold and assertive gesture for the subterranean complex, and one that sets the tone for a whimsical but intelligently designed space that makes a virtue of its constrained urban setting.

In fact, the cultural centre introduces a major civic hub to the heart of the emerging Chinese megacity of Xi’an. Designed by Oval Partnership, the project incorporates a 400-seat multi-functional theatre, a performance and rehearsal room, a multi-purpose gallery, exhibition spaces, workshops, and a café and bar, into a surprisingly graceful complex.

Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre

At street level, the centre’s engaging shared space gives it a prominent public face. While the compact site’s 2,000-square-metre footprint necessitated moving the performance space below ground, the canopy – with its circular cutouts that let in natural light – creates a playful outdoor living room.

It also allows the space to read as an extension of the surrounding public square. Designed to host small performances and community events, the mirrored canopy brings up a taste of the theatre from below.

Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre
Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre

Underground, three levels of escalators convey visitors into the heart of the cultural centre.

Here, a bronze-framed corridor forms the spine of the complex: Transforming the interstitial space into a tantalizing, immersive experience, an arrangement of intricately crafted bronze metal flutes are suspended from the ceiling, cantilevered from the walls, and rooted into the floor. The grid is composed of 8,000 individually crafted pieces, honed and detailed by local craftspeople. To create a compelling counterpoint to their rigid verticality, the designers hung a smooth, draping metallic veil that spans the ceiling’s length. Together, the bronze elements combine to create a feeling that the designers describe as “weightless suspension.”

Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre
Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre

Befitting the theatre, the space creates an immersive, sensory ambiance that takes advantage of its enclosed, underground site, to foster an experience inspired by its setting. Somewhere between the stage and the everyday world, it embodies the magic of the proscenium.

On either side of the corridor, the Qujiang theatre and rehearsal space leave the drama to the stage. Nonetheless, the minimalist rooms convey an architectural richness. While the main theatre stage is a pared-down black box, its subtle lighting program pleasantly accentuates the curves of the acoustic wall panels to frame the room. The retractable seating allows the space to be configured as a flat, unadorned auditorium. Meanwhile, the smaller rehearsal room – outfitted with brighter wall panels – is a more informal, relaxed space for performers. Deep underground, it is a quiet haven.

Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre

It’s difficult to make a cultural space space work below grade, but The Oval Partnership has just about pulled it off. The grace of the Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre is that it doesn’t attempt to overcome or mediate its seemingly unattractive context. Instead, it creates an experience that accentuates a feeling of subterranean mystery.

Oval Partnership Carves out a Cultural Hub Under a Burgeoning Chinese Metropolis

In the emerging megacity of Xi’an, the Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre elevates its subterranean setting.

AZURE is an independent magazine working to bring you the best in design, architecture and interiors. We rely on advertising revenue to support the creative content on our site. Please consider whitelisting our site in your settings, or pausing your adblocker while stopping by.