The Harbin Opera House is situated in the wetlands of the Songhua River in Northeast China and is designed to reflect the force and spirit of the northern city’s untamed wilderness and rigid climate, with an appearance of snowy mountains. In February 2016, the opera house was named one of the world’s best buildings by ArchDaily*. Sika China has played its part in creating this amazing landmark, using its silicone sealants to bond the aluminum cladding and glass façades.


A palace for music and art

2015 saw the inauguration of the Harbin Opera House, a palace of music and art for the city, marking the end of a five-year construction period. The opera house is located on the north bank of the Songhua River, where the riverbed forms various curves due to constant water level changes. The form of the building evokes a response to the location’s natural elements, appearing as if it was also sculpted by the water. The edifice, with its fluid curvilinear structure, rises like a ribbon from the ground and then gradually descends. It is designed to reflect the surrounding natural environment.


White aluminum panels and white stone concrete

The opera house was designed by the Beijing-based studio MAD. The fluid-shaped building wrapped with smooth white aluminum panels and white stone concrete resembles a mountain capped with shining ice and snow. Harbin goes through sharp temperature changes, measured as low as -40℃ in the winter, but rising to 40℃ in the summer. This poses a great challenge in terms of the building materials, including the sealants for bonding the aluminum cladding and façades.


Sealants stand 90°C of temperature difference

The sealants have to be able to withstand seasonal temperature changes for a period in excess of 10 years. In winter, when the snow melting device installed at the bottom of the aluminum cladding façade begins to work, the façade’s temperature will immediately rise 90℃ from -40℃ to 50℃. Under such conditions, a standard 4000 mm by 2000 mm aluminum cladding panel will experience a 9.7 mm linear deformation, which must be absorbed by the sealants. Sikasil® WS-305 CN, known for its excellent movement capability, can ensure a long durable function for such joints.


The opera house merges with nature and its surroundings not only as regards its appearance; it is alsodesigned to connect to the city and its residents. “We don’t want the opera house to serve just as a photo backdrop, like so many iconic buildings in other cities. We want people to approach it, enter it and even climb it,” said Ma Yansong, founder of MAD. In addition to a large public leisure plaza, the opera house allows people, whether ticket holders or general visitors, to explore the façade’s carved paths and ascend the building as if climbing a snowy mountain. Visitors will discover an open, exterior space that serves as an observation platform with views of Harbin once they finish their climbing journey.


Integrating performance, nature and the audience as a whole

The opera house consists of two theatres. The grand theatre, which can seat 1600 people, is surrounded by wooden walls around its stage and seating area, providing world-class acoustics. The smaller theatre, which can accommodate 400 people, offers a panoramic window behind the performance stage. This wall of sound-proof glass provides a naturally scenic backdrop for performances and turns the stage into an extension of the outdoor environment, integrating performance, nature and the audience as a whole.


In February, 2016, the Harbin Opera House was finally awarded the accolade of one of the fourteen World’s Best Buildings of the Year, selected from over 3000 buildings around the world on ArchDaily*. It is the only building from China which received this honor.  


* ArchDaily was founded in March 2008, and is the world’s most visited architecture website. It is an online source of continuous information for a growing community of thousands of architects searching for the latest architectural news on projects, products, events, interviews, competitions, etc.


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