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National Center for the Performing Arts

National Center for the Performing Arts

When French architect Paul Andreu set out to design the National Center for the Performing Arts, he envisioned the project as an icon for the city, a distinctly unique structure nestled amidst a landscape of vast history.

Popularly referred to as “The Egg”, the NCPA sits at the center of a rectangular pool, directly west of Tiananmen Square on a prime piece of ancient real estate just adjacent to the entrance of the Forbidden City.

Construction of the 5,452-seat titanium and glass ellipsoid structure began in December 2001. The main auditorium is flanked by two smaller auditorium spaces encapsulated by a nearly 12,000-sqm dome.  The titanium and glass dome measures 212 meters along its east-west axis, and 144 meters from north to south. The main entrance to the center takes visitors beneath the artificial lake, where calm water floats atop a glass roof, allowing light to pour into the main entry space.

From the very beginning of the project’s almost decade long realization from concept to completion, the design fell under severe scrutiny for its starkly modern appearance within its conservatively traditional setting. On countless occasions the design team was challenged to defend their position that the NCPA was intended to be an icon, a structure that would help to define Beijing as a modern epicenter spanning centuries of development. The muted polish of the titanium, dramatic use of glass, water and trees were carefully used to accentuate their ancient surroundings.

The three major performance spaces include the Opera Hall located at the center of the structure, flanked by a smaller Music Hall and Theater Hall on either side. Initial budgeting priced the cost of design and construction at 2.688 billion RMB, but after subsequent minor changes throughout the design process, the final price tag was more than 3.2 billion RMB.

With tickets available at a range of prices for performances, visiting the NCPA is a wonderful way to experience Chinese culture through the arts. Visit NCPA’s website for information on upcoming performances and events.