Lantern is a temporary outdoor theatre, built as part of a national bamboo building competition held in Anji, China. This experimental structure seeks to reconcile the uncertain and irregular nature of the material with the demands of a precisely defined geometry. The theatre is the outcome of a summer workshop held in the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong. The brief challenged participants to consider how an ancient material practice could be evolved and reimagined, while maintaining and supporting local craftsmen and women.
The form of the building is carefully tailored to its setting; a theatre in the round, sunken into the earth, located on a small island and surrounded on all sides by water and views of the nearby mountains. These views are framed by a circular array of columns, the spacing of which progressively expands and contracts, veiling and revealing the surrounding landscape. The curtain of columns blurs the boundaries of the performance space and the water which surrounds it, providing an ever-changing spatial experience. This effect is intensified by an oculus, which allows light to penetrate deep into the structure, marking time as it moves through the space and transforming the interior atmosphere of the theatre continually throughout the course of day.
In its making, the form of the theater is defined by a set of precisely controlled tools; a steel ring at the oculus, a square steel frame at the eaves, and a series of plates embedded within the concrete foundation at the base of the structure. These devices provide a framework, or template, which is then interpreted by local craftspeople who, working selectively, straighten, steam bend, and joint each piece and frame of bamboo in-situ. During this process, the structure evolves intuitively – constrained by the idiosyncratic nature of the material and the tools designed to shape it. In this way, the theatre embodies an approach to construction which seeks to elevate craft rather than supersede it, providing traditional craftspeople with the ability to realise complex new forms while maintaining a space for expression.
Student Participants @The University of Hong Kong Ruby Huang (Project Leader), Leung Lok Yan, Jiang Xinjie, Pu Chunpeng, Ng Hei Ting, Wang Yadian, Hui Tsz Nam, Tang Xiao, Tan Regina Tania, Cheung Wing Lam
Construction Anji ZhuJing BambooTechnology Co.