Camellian Opera House

Busan, South Korea | 56,600 m2
Opera House, multiform theatre
Honourable mention

Project Information

The Busan Camellian Opera House provides a harmonious connection between the existing dense urban fabric of the city and the port with its myriad of waterfront activities. Camouflaged beneath its contoured envelope, it erupts from the landscape in the form of densely planted tectonic petals that connect city and sea, urbanity and landscape, providing a major cultural hub, not only extending Busan’s influence as the gateway to Eurasia, but establishing it as an international maritime city of culture.

Conceived as a cultural link, the project has been carefully designed as an attractive and serene venue for opera and other performing arts. As a hub it will foster and attract a variety of social groups of differing ages, encouraging contact between art forms and the world of music. The project reflects how music, nature and architecture can coexist and interact, with often unexpected results and insights.

The project itself responds to the city and its cultural background through the camellia flower and its deep green leaves, symbolising the citizens of Busan. It reinterprets the qualities of the camellia through a series of transformations, an evolving floral plan where the closely planted fragmented petals will result in a verdant landscape. This interpretation was developed for its symbolic meaning and its versatility as an urban and cultural form.

The project comes to life as an island bloom nourished by the city and engaging in a dialogue with the site. It connects with the sea through the lush landscape that reaches the water, and the dramatic cantilevered high level restaurants with their spectacular vistas. It has a dialogue with the maritime park nearby through the magnificent north-facing rehearsal halls that overlook the island. This dialogue is reinforced by the high level promenade that presents an integrated landscape at a variety of levels, with commanding views along its length. Connections with the city are established in two ways: through a number of strategically located large digital screens that display current and future events, and through live open air concerts, where the multi-functional theatre opens up to face the city.

The centre expresses the human scale with an extensive number of accessible roofs at varying levels, creating shaded outdoor spaces for impromptu gatherings and events. The use of glass illuminates external surfaces and dapples light over the lush green landscape. This sensation will be particularly effective in the Grand Foyer where internal planting and a huge interactive light installation are inspired by flock behaviour. This flexible space allows for multiple functions and is linked to both the lyric and the multiform theatres. As a large open area it becomes an event space where audiences pour from the halls into an area that is full of greenery. To reinforce accessibility and monumentality, the roof-scape is openly accessible to the general public, with planted landscapes laid out on horizontal and sloping roofs. The proposal will achieve a low-carbon impact using green technologies which will enhance eco-efficiency, minimising any adverse environmental impacts.

The highly visible fly tower of the main opera will define the entire complex as a point of arrival. As a beacon overlooking the city and the ocean, glazed elements within the tower walls reveal the mechanical workings of its interior, displaying the hidden secrets of the theatre. The resulting architectural solution is a seamless ensemble of architecture and landscape, with open air activities lodged between the sea and greenery and music, opera and recreational activities filling the open air theatre and event spaces. The project, through light, sinuous architectural forms, expresses both balance and vitality, reflecting the strength and character of Busan.

Name: Camellian Opera House
Architects: Matteo Cainer Architects
Location: Busan, South Korea
Programme: Opera House: 2180 seats, Theatres: 1360 | 2220 seats
Client: Busan Metropolitan City
Project size: Site Area: 34,928m2 Total floor area: 56,600 m2
MCA Principal: Matteo Cainer
MCA Team: Caroline Finstad, Etienne Gozard, Charles Guerton, Melanie Jaulin, Nike Vogrinec
Awards: Honorable Mention, WA Designed Award


Busan, South Korea | 56,600 m2
Opera House, multiform theatre
Honourable mention

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