The Han Show Theatre

Stufish Entertainment Architects completed the 2,000 seat, live entertainment Han Show Theatre in Wuhan, China. The state-of-the-art theatre was purpose-built to house a brand new acrobatic water spectacle, The Han Show by renowned theatre director Franco Dragone.

The distinctive theatre's design was inspired by the traditional Chinese paper lantern. The intent was to create a contemporary interpretation of the iconic Chinese symbol with the cladding that covers the theatre's ambitious auditorium and fly tower.

Stufish Entertainment Architects completed the 2000 seat live entertainment Han Show theatre in Wuhan, China in December 2014. The state-of-the-art, purpose built theatre provides the building and staging of a brand new acrobatic water show by renowned theatre Director Franco Dragone.

The theatre has three extraordinary performance features which have informed much of the unique design both inside and out. Stufish’s design for the moveable seats allow the auditorium to change shape and configuration during the show: the performance begins within a traditional proscenium arrangement as the audience enters the theatre at either stalls or circle levels. During the performance the stalls pivot open to reveal a 10m deep performance pool thrust stage. The circle seats travel down over 6m to complete the transformed in-the-round experience.

There are 11 wet/dry lifts within the pool which travel through the 10 million litres of water allowing multiple staging options throughout the show. Scuba divers concealed under the water move scenery around and assist performers in seemingly miraculous performer and scenic entrances from the vast pool depths.

The performance is enhanced by Stufish’s design of three 11x7m wide LED screens mounted onto robot arms built into the building fabric. Each of the robot arms has six independent axis of motion which results in an incredible number of screen compositions. 

The unique auditorium and show is supported by a vast back of house programme including workshops, dressing rooms, extensive rehearsal space, offices, meeting rooms a staff canteen and a large green room. Stufish were careful to ensure much of this programme was located within the theatre to enable large windows, plenty of natural light and views across the Shuiguo Lake for performers and crew alike.

Externally, the theatre’s design is based on the Chinese paper lantern. The traditional bamboo structure has been reinterpreted by Stufish as eight intersecting steel rings suspended in orbit around the theatres fly tower. The lantern paper surface is suggested through a series of minimal surface cable nets tensioned within the lattice of trapezoidal voids generated by the interesting rings. Each of the 18,000 cable net nodal points supports a red aluminium disk, the design of which was inspired by the traditional Chinese bi disk; an ancient artefact symbolising skyward ambition and the heavens.

The ‘light’ of the lantern is enabled by a circular array of red LED’s at the centre of each disk that illuminate the concave dimpled surface. The light across each disk is split into four quarter zones, each individually addressable using DMX control, resulting in a lighting system can host a video image of approximately 600 x 120 pixels across its surface.

The Stufish team worked closely with the client, Wanda, the show creator Dragone and consultants Theatre Projects in several years of intensive meetings across three continents in order to transform the ambitious vision into a viable building.

Project team:

Client: Dalian Wanda Group Ltd

Show Producer and Creator: Dragone

Concept Architect including façade, public space interiors, building arrangement and planning: Stufish Entertainment Architects

Stage Architects, Auditorium Design Concept including Robot Arms, Moving Seats, Interior Design: Stufish Entertainment Architects

Local Design Institute Architects and Engineers: Guangzhou Pearl River Freeing Investment Architectural Designing Institute

Theatre Consultant: Theatre Projects Consultants

Acoustic Design: Jaffe Holden

Engineering of Robot Arms, Grid and Moving Seats: McLaren Engineering

Show Scenic Design: Dragone, Francois Seguin