China is developing at a dizzying speed, but in its haste to showcase its progress to the world, some design vision is lost. One place where this is particularly obvious is the country’s program for new performing arts centers.
In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, the government poured generous funding into the construction of the National Grand Theater in Beijing. This venue consisted of three spaces: a large opera house, a major concert hall, and a smaller theater. The theater was designed by Paul Andreu, a French architect known more for his airports than performing arts centers, but he achieved what most Chinese view as progress: a Western-style monumental architecture that is a standout building in modern Beijing.
With more government funding, the rush to build performing arts venues continued to other cities, including smaller ones. Many of these cities do not have an existing facility nor resident artists who would use such a space. The government’s strategy seems to be “build it and they will come.”