Zhuhai Opera House – Inspired by Moon Scallops

China’s newest opera house was inspired by seafood and a Roman goddess, and will show what’s going on inside to people outside with projections on its huge shell. Located at Yeli Island in Zhuhai, China, the Zhuhai Opera House (known as the ‘Birth of Venus Opera House’, took eight years to complete at a total cost of $160 million.

Shaped as scallops to represent the brilliant sun and entrancing moon, the opera house has a floor space of nearly 50,000 square meters. The design for the 90m-high “Birth of Venus” venue, by Shenzhen architect Chen Keshi, beat stiff competition from international firms. Keshi also runs his own design company in Shenzhen, got his idea of using “moon shells” from Sandro Botticelli’s painting, Birth of Venus.

“The design was inspired by a student working with us who is now in the UK. He saw the Asia Moon scallop, which is found in the Pearl River Delta, with pearls inside. I saw it and thought it was a beautiful design. It is a simple structure, with one large and one small shell; one will enclose the big theatre and the other the small one,” Keshi said.

The Asia Moon scallop, or amusium pleuronectes in Latin, is found in the South China Sea, many coastal areas of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. The design has exterior walls made of glass, which will glisten in the sun during the day. The interior will be decorated with indigenous scallops.

The larger of its two shells houses a 1,550-seat concert hall, a lobby, an auditorium and a stage. The smaller rises 60 meters and contains a 500-seat theatre. Both are connected with a 350-seat outdoor theater.

The big Concert Hall will stage broad-scale musical dramas, musicals, ballet, stage drama, symphonies, chamber music, opera and other large-scale performances and variety shows.

Meanwhile, the opera house showcases original regional artwork, avant-garde drama, mini-theatre drama, local opera, modern dance, small variety shows, press conferences, art promotions, signature courts, fashion shows, corporate annual meetings and so on. There is a corridor above the Concert Hall for sightseeing, leisure tourism, catering, fashion and culture.

The facade of the larger shell is covered with an LED lighting system that projects live operas on the outside of the building.