Introducing the National Grand Theatre
The National Centre for the Performing Arts, literally National Grand Theatre, and colloquially called The Egg, is an opera house in Beijing, an ellipsoid dome of titanium and glass surrounded by an artificial lake, seats 5,452 people in three halls and is almost 12,000 m² in size. It was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. Construction of the National Grand Theatre started from December 2001 and ended in December 2007.
The exterior of the theater is a titanium accented glass dome that is completely surrounded by a man-made lake. It is said to look like an egg floating on water, or a water drop. It was designed as an iconic feature, something that would be immediately recognizable. The dome measures 212 meters in east-west direction, 144 meters in north-south direction, and is 46 meters high. The main entrance is at the north side. Guests arrive in the building after walking through an 80 meters hallway that goes underneath the lake. The titanium shell is broken by a glass curtain in north-south direction that gradually widens from top to bottom.
The location, closely to the west of Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall of the People, and near the Forbidden City, combined with the theatre's futuristic design, created considerable controversy. Paul Andreu countered that although there is indeed value in ancient traditional Chinese architecture, Beijing must also include modern architecture, as the capital of the country and an international city of great importance. His design, with large open space, water, trees, was specially designed to complement the red walls of ancient buildings and the Great Hall of the People, in order to melt into the surroundings as opposed to standing out against them.
The initial planned cost of the theatre was 2.688 billion Chinese Yuan. When the construction had completed, the total cost rose to more than ¥ 3.2 billion. The major cause of the cost increase was a delay for re-evaluation and subsequent minor changes as a precaution after a Paris airport terminal building collapsed which was also designed by Paul Andreu. The cost has been a major source of controversy because many believed that it is nearly impossible to recover the investment. When the cost is averaged out, each seat is worth about ¥ 500,000. The government sanctioned study completed in 2004 by the Research Academy of Economic & Social Development of Northeast University of Finance and Economics, of the upkeep costs of the building were publicized in domestic Chinese media. The water and electricity bills and the cleaning cost for the external surface would be at least tens of millions Chinese Yuan, and with other maintenance cost, the total could easily exceed one billion Yuan. Therefore, at least 80% of the annual operational costs must be subsidized by the government for at least the first three years after the opening, and for the rest of its operational life, at least 60% of the annual operational cost must be subsidized by the government.