The Libertto

Programme: Opera House International Competition
Site: Busan, South Korea
Size: 60 000 m²
Completion Date: /


The concept for developing the Busan Opera Complex(BOC) strung from two parallel points of departure: Our suspicion and hesitation on creating irrelevant yet visually stimulating forms(the Bilbao hang-over syndrome?), and our conviction to reconsidering the future performance aspects of Opera as both a space and as an event.

The history and development of opera house in the past 300 years has taken a dramatic shift in both space and form, particularly in the past 50 years. Through our research we came to a conclusion that since the Sydney Opera House(1973), more auxiliary program and cultural related activities have been put in co-existence with the opera and performance space. The latest designed opera house in both Guangzhou, China(2011) and Oslo, Norway(2008) clearly showed that over 70 % of the total floor area is dedicated as “other cultural space” to coexist with the opera activity, as suppose to the conventional 50/50 distribution of opera performance spaces and the back of house.

Simultaneously we saw an endless pursuit in visual spectacle resulted in a complete divorce between the opera chamber and its building envelope.  The residual spaces, the leftover once the acoustical driven opera chamber is addressed, is “retrofit” by these auxiliary cultural program into a predetermined shape.

Our proposal was the opposite of a “form-generator.” We first studied the geographical significant of Busan, and proposed that the Busan Port can act as a multi-cultural hub to cater both local Korean (N and S. Korean in the future after unification in 20XX?) and international visitors. The design will generate different lines of physical activities, not limited to Opera only, to sustain and to support the BOC.

Our initial move involved placing the two anchoring program, the Opera House and the Theatre on the opposite end of the site, one facing the city and the other facing the harbor, to avoid a front/back reading of the site.  We believe that harbor side and the city side are equally important.  Based on six distinctive elements, 1)Building Mass; 2)Surface; 3) Surface Relationship; 4)Movement; 5) Spatial Organization; 6)Permeability, we were able to generate a Correlational Diagram to illustrate possible scenarios for various activities to take place and intermingle with each other.  The result is an endless combination of possible spatial and programmatic relationships, driven and supported further by infrastructural and transportation needs.

Through this sectional and spatial correlation exercise, we have created unexpected programmatic conditions such as a New Outdoor Marine Opera for the Killer whales and dolphin, Opera Training Institute for Visitors; digital music follies; Back of house Visiting Center; Rehearsal & Training Studio Corridor; North-South Korean Memorial sub-marine museum etc.  

The design through this strategies is not unlike scripting an opera, the LIBRETTO.  First there were two protagonists (the anchoring Opera House and the Theater).  We then scripted the scenarios through the Correlational Chart (Plots and Stage Directions) for various activities (the Supporting Casts) to take place and to interact. The core essence is to create a synergy where the protagonists, the supporting casts, the music, and the stage set can all shine.