Jean Nouvel takes over the international competition for the design of the Shenzhen Opera House in China

French architect Jean Nouvel has been announced as the grand winner of the International Architecture Competition for Shenzhen’s new opera house design with his “Light of the Sea” proposal. During the presentation of results, the jury referred to Ateliers Jean Nouvel’s proposal as “a masterpiece where music meets the sea”, and that design does not assume the conventional form of an opera building, closed in on itself, but integrates it with the coastal landscape of Shenzhen city, becoming a new urban landmark for the metropolis in southwest China.


Located in Dongjiaotou, adjacent to the Shenzhen Bay Entertainment Zone, on a site of approximately 175,000 square meters, the new Shenzhen Opera House will boast more than 220,000 square meters of gross floor area.


Developed in partnership with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the Department of Culture, the Department of Radio, TV, Tourism, Sports, and the Department of Public Infrastructure of Shenzhen Municipality, the architectural competition was conducted by “open invitation and selection,” nominating 17 teams from more than 100 registered offices. Representing 14 different countries, the participating teams included some of the leading architectural firms from around the world.


Responding to the physical and programmatic constraints in a very abstract yet very concrete way, the international jury chose the project presented by Ateliers Jean Nouvel as the grand winner. Shaping “a highly original setting for music and creating deep connections with the coastal landscape of Shenzhen city,” Jean Nouvel’s Opera House project takes on unconventional forms, opening up space and integrating the building with the Great Bay.


Dubbed “Sea Light,” the winning proposal reveals itself through a curved, light, and transparent roof that seems to float above the coastal landscape and under which the opera’s programming fits. By the sea, the building seems to unfold, extending the program into a public space and welcoming the interior landscape.


Jean Nouvel Ateliers explains:

Our proposal is to create a new scene of oriental music. The roof, through its forms, echoes the city’s landscape, its mountains, and the sea, highlighting the unique geographical qualities of the city of Shenzhen.”


Known as an architect who constantly explores the play of light and shadow, Jean Nouvel has shaped some of the most important cultural buildings built in the world in recent years, including the Paris Philharmonic, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Qatar National Museum.


For the Shenzhen Opera House, the architect envisioned an open foyer, an ideal space for public musical performances, open shows, and other forms of cultural activities. Like an orchestra in itself, the interior of the concert hall adopts irregular and rhythmic lines, highlighting the organic geometry of the space. Inspired by the concept of “DreamWorks”, combining culture and technology, the roof of the building designed by Jean Nouvel and his team reveals itself as a “sequence of dancing musical notes, rational in their functionality and romantic in their forms”.

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