Margarita Calero Architect
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Xiamen Music Center envisions a world-class performance destination inspired by the island city’s unique relationship between its dramatic topography and the harbor in which it sits. Adjacent to a historic 19th century military fort that is embedded into a rock outcropping and which protected the city from invaders, the New Music Center acknowledges the fact that the city is formed by its remarkable landscape and context. It is the embrace between mountainous landscape and the built environment, as well as between undulating shoreline and the corresponding profile of water which defines the city of Xiamen, and shapes the design concept for the Music Center.

The building is spliced in and around the natural topography of the site to reduce its impact on the adjacent historic context and to engage the earth in an integral embrace. The moderately sloped site is carved away toward the shoreline to also bring the building and its patrons closer to the level and experience of the shore. A large sweeping gesture creates the architecture, an iconic form that makes reference to a powerful wave reminiscent of the sea, an acoustic pressure or musical crescendo, a series of contour plates that establish the landscape, or the profile of traditional Chinese rooflines. The curving form is simultaneously façade, ground and civic stair that organizes the entire visitor experience. 

A public plaza sits high at the street level and provides access to the concert hall lobby or an adjacent recital hall. An intermediate platform establishes a distinct place for an existing Buddhist temple, accessed by stair treads which are integrated into the curvilinear façade. The stair treads – which evolve into solar shading for the interior spaces behind – continue down toward an outdoor concert shell at the beach. In total, the grand stair becomes a civic event: an amphitheater, a processional sequence to a performance or to the temple precinct, open accessible public space a kind to the Spanish Steps. 

The sweeping façade shapes the dramatic interior space as well and appears to deflect against the free-standing central concert hall form. The wood cladding of the vineyard-style hall references weathered rocks or driftwood found along the shore. The interior of the 2,500-seat hall arrays a series of convex forms through the ceiling and wall panels to enhance the acoustic performance by dispersing sound throughout the hall, as well as to provide visual continuity with the exterior forms. A recital hall, musical education space and other academic functions complement the concert hall, and are dedicated to the music program of Xiamen University. A pedestrian bridge that grows out of the recital hall form connects the Music Center to the university campus across the street.

Together, the architectural forms compose spaces which attempt to embody the concept of musical space, where the collection of distinct spatial instruments interacts, counterpoints and unifies into an overall composition. The design thereby transcribes the way music is experienced over time into the physical realm: a sequence of distinct environments unveiled in a unique choreography and combined with distant and intimate views to capture the character of a place.

The design is the product of a six-week design competition for Xiamen City Municipal Planning 2016.


LOCATION: Xiamen, China

YEAR: 2016

SIZE: 430,550 GSF

PROGRAM: 2,500-seat Concert Hall, Recital Hall, Education Spaces, Amphitheater