Located near Tiananmen Square, the 490,485-square-foot glass-and-titanium National Grand Theater, scheduled to open in 2008, seems to float above a man-made lake. Intended to stand out amid the Chinese capital's bustling streets and ancient buildings, the structure has garnered criticism among Bejing's citizens for clashing with classic landmarks like the Monument to the People's Heroes (dedicated to revolutionary martyrs), the vast home of the National People's Congress, or Tiananmen Gate itself (the Gate of Heavenly Peace).
French architect Paul Andreu is no stranger to controversy -- or to innovative forms. A generation ago, in 1974, his untraditional design for Terminal 1 of Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport was criticized for its unusual curves, yet Andreu's groundbreaking, futuristic building later was seen to distinguish de Gaulle from more generic European and international air hubs. (The same airport's Terminal 2E, also designed by Andreu, gained attention in 2004 when it collapsed, tragically killing four people.)
Beijing's daring National Grand Theater is as much a spectacle as the productions that will be staged inside in the 2,416-seat opera house, the 2,017-seat concert hall, and the 1,040-seat theater. At night, the semi-transparent skin will give passersby a glimpse at the performance inside one of three auditoriums, a feature that highlights the building's public nature.