Raising the roof

Updated: 2013-09-05 07:24

By Sun Yuanqing (China Daily)

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Step by step, a new water show theater takes shape on the skyline of Wuhan. The structure will be the first of many spectacles to follow next year, Sun Yuanqing reports.

Acclaimed British architect and stage artist Mark Fisher died in June, but his creation in China continues to grow and thrive.

The Han Show Theater in the Central Chinese city of Wuhan, the Chinese mainland's first permanent water show theater, took a big step forward in late July with the raising of its steel-trussed rooftop.

"This is a groundbreaking moment for the Han Show Theater," says Zhang Zhen, architect in charge at the Wanda Cultural Tourism Planning & Research Institute, developer of the theater.

Best known in China as the senior designer for the Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, Fisher was a rock-tour design specialist who staged concert spectacles for the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U2 and many other top bands for two decades. He tailored the Han Show Theater for a water show created by Franco Dragon, founder and artistic director of Franco Dragon Entertainment Group.

Raising the roof

Raising the steel-trussed rooftop of the Han Show Theater in Wuhan, Hubei province, is just completed at the construction site. Provided to China Daily

The show will be the third of its kind after Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas and the House of Dancing Water in Macao, both of which were directed by Dragon. The Han Show will be on a larger scale than the previous two, integrating dance, swimming and acrobatics, as well as special water, sound and light effects.

Han Show "is the culmination of everything that we've done so far", said Matthew Jessner, project artistic director for The House of the Dancing Water, in an interview with the Blooloop website.

All these require a space that is stable, creative and technically supportive, says Zhang.

Inspired by the Chinese red lantern, the facade of the theater is embraced by eight intersecting "bicycle" wheels that are connected to the main drum of the theater with hundreds of spokes. The surface of the lantern is made up of 25,000 metal disks. These disks, derived from the Chinese jade disks, represent the heavens and skyward ambition, which is at the core of the show.

Inside the building, the glazed roof of the theater lobby opens up to provide a view of the 56-meter-high lantern structure.

Twelve elevating sections comprise the stage, which can rise and fall depending on the story being presented. The theater will also feature a 26-meter-high platform for diving shows.

The three 11-by-7-meter LED screens will together form the world's largest movable LED screens, creating spectacular multimedia effects for the show.

Measuring 86,000 square meters in total, the theater hosts more than 2,000 seats. These seats are divided into three sections that can rotate to reveal an 8-meter-deep pool, which serves as part of the stage.

"All these would have been impossible without a stable, huge rooftop," Zhang says. "Many of these technical devices never existed before. We developed them exclusively for Franco Dragon's creation."

The roof weighs 2,300 tons, equivalent to eight A380 planes. The steel trusses were assembled on the ground and then lifted by a hydraulic crane to a level of 52.9 meters, as high as an 18-story building, also a record-breaking height for roof lifting. The asymmetric structure of the steel trusses and the space restraint made the erection even more difficult.

Despite of all the challenges, the frame was completed on July 27, two days ahead of schedule.

"We believe the Han Show Theater will become a landmark building on par with the Sydney Opera House and the Louvre," Dragone said in an interview with iLife Magazine in 2012.

With an investment of 2.5 billion yuan ($40.8 million), the Han Show Theater is believed to be the world's most expensive water-show theater to date. It will serve as the anchor for a major development in Wuhan by the Beijing-based developer Dalian Wanda.

The construction of the theater is expected to be completed by next April, and the show is scheduled to open on Dec 20, 2014.

Contact the writer at sunyuanqing@chinadaily.com.cn.

Raising the roof

A design sketch of the Han Show Theater (left). Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 09/05/2013 page8)