Jian Li Ju Theatre

Jian Li Ju Theatre


The Jianliju theatre company, in an interesting examination of typology, offer a unique spectator experience where the audience plays an integral part of their performances and productions, as such the brief for their new premises in Shanghai demands a careful architectural approach to the relationships between space, event and movement. MDO selected to take on this mantle have addressed these conditions with a deliberate and exaggerated exploration of form, lighting and circulation. We have taken the cinematic expression of film noir and applied its heightened sense of drama to the atmosphere within to create a sequence of contrasting spaces that read as a montage of screenshots from a film reel.

With work of this nature the architectural theory of Tschumi, especially the 1976 Screenplays project is never far away and many of the formal strategies employed by the architect directly reference the parallels with screen editing and the time-space nature of architecture. Tools such as distortion, repetition and superimposition often used by the great directors of the film noir scene have all been applied as a method to soak the interior with all the atmosphere of a 50s Hollywood melodrama.

The theatre is accessed off a non-descript side-street in central Shanghai, the entrance door hidden at the back of an antique furniture emporium. Visitors arrive only with a time, location and number. From the door a stair leads down into the darkness and from there the circulation seeks to create a sense of departure from the world outside, a deliberate act of disorientation initiated by a dark curved corridor that emphasizes low-key lighting and unbalanced compositions leads to the spaces inside. The functions are organized into a linear arrangement of spaces, where the visitor is prevented from going backwards, as if following an unknown figure through the street at night.

Photographs by Dirk Weiblen

Signage by Evelyn Chiu

Area: 930sqm
Status: Completed 2017