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Beauty In Terracotta – The Fuzhou Strait Culture and Art Center

China’s massive Fuzhou Strait Culture and Art Center is one of the most stunning modern examples of the beauty and practical applications of architectural terracotta. Designed by PES-Architects and completed in 2018, the sparkling white center was inspired by something as simple as a jasmine flower.


The center is located on the Minjiang River, and it overlooks the Mahangzhou island nature reserve. The five huge buildings that comprise the complex looms over the landscape, and their graceful curves and unique shapes offer an interesting counterpoint to not only the riverfront but also to the less inspiring buildings of the cityscape in the background.


The Fuzhou Strait Culture and Art Center is the perfect setting for modern audiences who visit the venue to attend the many different cultural programs on offer. But that’s not all. Visitors can also enjoy a bit of shopping as well as entertainment services that are geared toward families. The center is proof that the new era of a cultural building in China has no nostalgia for the concrete boxes that were favored by architects several decades ago.

©Marc Goodwin Archmospheres

Petals – Five Main Buildings

PES-Architects’ choice of the jasmine as the inspiration behind the building’s design was not arbitrary, as it is the city’s official flower. The grace and beauty of the flowers famed for their exotic fragrance inspired the design of the five main buildings, each of which forms one of the petals of the floral pattern that is obvious when the center is seen from above.

The buildings include the magnificent 1,600-seat opera house, the 1,000-seat concert hall, the 700-seat multipurpose theatre, the art museum, and the film and TV center. Rather than standing completely separate from one another, they are linked by a cultural concourse at the same level as the Liangcuo flood river.

The concourse, which serves as a shopping gallery, also connects the center with a metro station. The roof of the concourse forms a terrace that is accessible from lifts inside the buildings as well as from ramps that rise from the Central Jasmine Plaza and the Jasmine Gardens.

©Marc Goodwin Archmospheres

The Biggest Single-Layer Steel Shell Grid

The scale of the Fuzhou Strait Culture and Art Center is staggering. The opera house is the center’s largest building, and it includes China’s biggest single-layer steel shell grid construction area and shell body grid span.

The grid is an impressive 165m long and 90m wide, covers 33,821 square meters, and weighs 11.2 tons. The support column is 41m high, and that still does not reach the full height of the building, which is 64.35m. While the size of the opera house and the rest of the center is bound to impress almost anyone who visits it, the facades and interiors of the buildings will no doubt be the most eye-catching features.


Terracotta Steals The Show

The brilliant white beauty of the Fuzhou Strait Culture and Art Center is thanks to the terracotta cladding and sunshades that cover its exterior. The solid exterior walls of the buildings are clad with terracotta panels manufactured by LOPO China, and the glass facades of the buildings are covered by sunshades comprised of baguettes and louvers made by the same company.

Before the sunshades were installed, the designers developed a complex computer script to find the angles for the baguettes and the distances between the louvers that would maximize the amount of shade they offer. In areas where less shade was required, some baguettes and louvers were removed to create further visual interest from the outside and to offer unobstructed views from inside the buildings.

The use of ceramic, which has a historical significance that is best highlighted by its importance during the time of the maritime Silk Road, continues inside the center. While the interior ceramic details are breath-taking in all the buildings, they are at their most exquisite in the opera house and concert hall.

The interiors of those buildings were a collaboration between PES-Architects and Samuel Hsuan-yu Shih, a notable ceramic artist based in Taiwan. The ceramic interiors not only had to look good, but they also needed to meet the acoustic demands of the venues. Acousticians were brought in to help create the panels that feature Hsuan-yu Shih’s designs using new technology and a material known as China White.

The results were two different types of terracotta panels, one of which was engraved, while the other was a mosaic tile panel. The 3,200m China White skin in the center’s opera house features 13 different shapes and 1.5 million ceramic jasmine petals designed by the artist.

©Marc Goodwin Archmospheres – entrance hall
©Marc Goodwin Archmospheres – multifunctional hall

The Beauty Of Bamboo

Although terracotta is the main material showcased at the Fuzhou Strait Culture and Art Center, the beauty of bamboo also adds to the venue’s visual splendor. The multipurpose theatre is one of the few departures from the use of ceramic, as it is clad with solid bamboo blocks that were cut by Computer Numerical Control (CNC).

In addition to the theatre’s cladding, bamboo was used for various surfaces in the center, as well as for decorative and other details, and it was used as flooring. Other materials utilized in the construction of the complex include fiberglass-reinforced concrete and marble.

©Marc Goodwin ceramics details
©Marc Goodwin ceramics tiles
©Marc Goodwin Archmospheres
©Marc Goodwin Archmospheres

Going Beyond Beauty

The addition of architectural terracotta panels at the Fuzhou Strait Culture and Art Center is not only about the beauty they bring to the complex. They also are a green building material that helps offset the complex’s energy usage.

The panels and terracotta cladding are made from baked clay, which is a natural material. Terracotta has a high fireproof rating, and it is remarkably durable. The material can survive decades of exposure to the elements, even in climates with extreme temperatures. Furthermore, it can be repurposed and recycled. The cladding and sunshade help the buildings stay cool in summer and warm in winter, which means less energy and therefore less money is required to cool or heat them, making them all the more eco-friendly.

The center truly is a noteworthy landmark for the city of Fuzhou and an architectural marvel that combines classic and contemporary designs in equal measure.


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