Sited at the West-south of Erhai Lake, at the edge of the ancient citadel of Dali, an abandon transformer factory is transformed into a theatrical park. The original workshop, storage and office are turned into theater, new media art, and mutli-sensual caterings. The main performance venue is the Transformer Theatre that creates a trinity of architecture, interior and stage setting design.
Undulating Tabula Rasa | City and Theatre | New Theatre Typology
The assemblage building in the factory—the future Transformer Theatre—is the tallest building within the ancient citadel. The building has a unique relation to the city, as its east and west terraces face Erhai Lake and Cangshan Mountain, which are the two major scenery the city is known for. The design use pathways and platforms to connect the high and low roofs. As the Athens’ plateau gave birth to the Acropolis and the Western culture, the transformer park aims to create an undulating Tabula Rasa that brings Dali and Eastern culture back to life.
The site and the urban regeneration project provides a unique opportunity to redefine the typology of theatre. Due to site constrains, the Transformer Theatre is constructed through the aggregation of four piecemeal buildings: the assemblage building becomes front stage, the storage becomes back stage, the office turns into gift shop, and the workshop provides theatre services. Theatre typology expanses from a big-box to a “theatrical district,” and the original streets between buildings become cross-stage access or linkage between programs. Theatre no longer represents the elites only; Just as rhizome, theatre could also grow from bottom-up during the gaps between life spontaneously. Yes, daily life of ordinary people matters. Trivial moments in life, are filled with tensions, and it says a lot about the time we are in. To borrow Lewis Mumford’s word, “the city is a museum, and the museum is a city,” we exchange the concept between city and theatre: the city is a theatre, and the theatre is a city.
The Avant-Garde Stage of the Surreal City
As the architecture “spaces out” from its pragmatic program, it creates “the other space” for illusion. The Heterotopia illusionary space is defined as the “theater.” The “theaters” could happen everywhere: some are within the roof, some are on the roof, some attach to the clerestory, and some grow out of the window to be a theatrical box. Every building in the factory donates part of the building to create the micro Heterotopia, which is a meditation space parallel to reality. As the micro Heterotopias are connected, they create a field beyond reality. As one passes through the field, one passes through the section of the city and the section of daily life.
Mingled with chaotic residential and commercials, the transformer factory appeared in the city center from historic incidences of the 70’s. In itself, it is a Heterotopia existence within a touristic city. The clash between its industrial aesthetics and the city’s scenic beauty enrich the layers of touristic planning for Dali. The industrial language, in lines of mechanics, spatial compaction, and specific material sensitivities, would covert to architecture syntax that defines the interior and exterior space of the performing venue. The collage of industry, vernacular architecture, and arts of virtual reality resurrect the industrial plot and covert it to a “mutated transformer factory” that stages the surreal city with up and down theatrical moments.
Mutated Transformer Factory
The first floor is composed by the Theatrical Bar of Tarot, the Queen’s Broadcast Room, the Experimental Cabin, the Research Unit, the Immature Canteen and the High Club. Each of them are unique performance spaces with immersive shows. The Spatial sequence sets up the linear and non-linear logic for the show. The show and the architecture are one, as the interior space becomes the setting as well as the subject for the show.
The gift shop is connected at the first and second floors to the main performance space, as a way the end the theatrical journey.
The second floor consists of performance spaces of the Fragment of Memory, and the Suspended Sleeping Tank. The theatrical spaces here combine digital stage techniques, of Wire Screen, Yarn Screen Projection and Action Capture, to create illusionary surreal spaces that goes beyond physical dimension.
The third floor consists of caterings of the Tarot Bar Extension and the Red Wine Restaurant. The caterings carry on the theatrical spirit of the space and inherent the industrial motifs of the transformer factory.
Theatrical Bar of Tarot
The hybrid of performative and commercial space that features the theatrical setting of the old factory’s chemistry lab. The space narrative derives from the theatrical plot of the first scene.
Red Wine Restaurant
A surreal catering space that enlarges the machine parts for people to think critical about their place in time.
Queen’s Broadcast Room
The theatrical space features a DNA double spiral stair case, rotating within a parametric forest that morph from plants to butterflies. With the help of the AR and VR show, the space tells about the slenderness of the queen’s room and the murder scene broadcast from it.
Fragment of Memory
A circular performance space that combines AR and VR shows.
The hybrid of a dancing club and final stage of the show. The space is staged for the finally releasing party that all theatrical plots come to a climax. The design utilizes a crane and cable car from the original transformer factor and converts it to a floating stage that could be lift up and down. There are two underground stages echoing with the suspended stage. All stages are equipped with the LED ice screen for the VR show. The bar that placed within the club converts the remaining machines of the transformer factory into bar furniture, creating a space between theatre and reality.
Atelier Alter Architects is a cross-disciplinary practice based in New York and Beijing. Constantly redefining boundaries of architecture, the works of Atelier Alter strive for manifesting ideas of significance: ideas that offer critics rather than imitations.
Designing with social agendas, the practice focuses upon culture and civic works since the beginning. By transferring metaphysical context into spaces of historic remembrance, the practice completed projects of Qujing Culture Center, Senior Culture Center, and Yingliang Fossil Museum. Meanwhile, projects of BIT Sport Center, WuliEpoch Culture Center, Yingliang Stone Archive exploded the typological transformation of social and culture spaces. Noted for designing from critical analysis of the site, Atelier Alter Architects has been recognized by numerous awards, including AIA Design Award, German Design Award, BOY Award, AZ Award etc. Meanwhile, works from Atelier Alter Architects has been published and featured worldwide.