Grand Theater in New Districts in Chinese Regional Cities


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

View graph of relations



Awarding Institution
Award date14 Jul 2022


The development of urban culture in China entered an unprecedented period after the reform and opening-up policy of 1978. With the acceleration of the economy and urbanization, China’s cities experienced explosive population growth, and new districts were built nationwide to support the urban expansion. Cultural flagship projects in the central areas of the new districts were considered to be an effective strategy to spur on the development of urban culture and the economy. Among these projects, grand theaters and the grand theater construction boom were typical phenomena.

This study explores the relationship between grand theaters and the new districts in regional cities in China. Regional cities are a significant component of the urban system in China, where almost half of the nation’s population now resides. Given the lack of high-class venues for the performing arts, grand theaters not only provide a place for high culture and performances, but they also form an iconic image and restructure the theater system in the city. Based on numerous field investigations and interviews, the research was conducted from three perspectives, namely space, technology, and social relations, which can also be classified into physical attributes (space and technology) and abstract attributes (social relations).

The above three categories are examined individually. From the perspective of the space of the grand theater in relation to its new district, the relationship includes the building design, functional integration, the spatial relationship between the grand theater and the new district, and the involvement of overseas architects and design firms. The technological perspective is examined in terms of the spatial experience inside the theater hall and the promotion of interior public spaces. To obtain a comprehensive understanding of the relationship, a triangular framework of the social-spatial perspective is used to interpret the social relations between the local government, theater management, and residents. Online reviews were also collected and analyzed to provide supplementary feedback from residents on the grand theater and new district.

Three grand theaters in regional cities, namely the Chongqing Grand Theater, Henan Art Center, and Harbin Grand Theater, were selected as typical cases, distributed in geographical sequence from west to east and from south to north. Each case was analyzed from the three perspectives of space, technology, and social relations. Comparative studies were applied to interpret the similarities and differences from these three perspectives. The three cases indicate that grand theater construction not only upgrades the space and technology of the performing arts venue in terms of architectural scale, but it also restructures the spatial system of the performing arts at the urban scale and influences the cultural policy of regional cities.

This study aims to reevaluate the grand theater construction boom in regional cities over the past two decades, conduct a deep analysis of the spatial, technological, and social influences during this period of rapid urban expansion, and provide timely and critical suggestions for the further development of regional cities in China and the world.

    Research areas

  • regional city, grand theater, urbanism, architectural design