The Tchaikovsky Academic Opera & Ballet Theater

The city of Perm is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, and WHY has been selected to design a new opera and ballet theater as part of a major urban regeneration campaign. Inspired by the region’s dramatic geology, the structure is imagined as a rock which rises from the geological outcrop above the valley. It’s also a highly porous form – instead of an enclosed bastion of high culture, the theater is wrapped in a glass curtain wall for maximum openness and transparency.

Key info
Design Architect
Executed by Workshop HY Architecture & Design DPC
Perm, Russia
  • Commenced 2019 - Ongoing
  • 35,000 sq. m; Site: 4.45 acres
Design Architect, Landscape Designer
Selected Press

Our design seeks to dissolve the existing typology of the closed-off theatre structure, creating a building with views of the city on all sides. The design strategy was developed collaboratively by the WHY Buildings and Landscape Workshops, envisaging a flowing, dynamic space which locates art and nature at the center of urban life.


The building’s curved form and circulation spaces are inspired by the movement of dance and music. The square plaza of a traditional theatre becomes an organic curved surface which sweeps visitors up into the building, and ramps and walkways create a sense of flow throughout the building. These formal elements of the theatre extend to the surrounding park, where a series of undulating paths and terraced landscaping generate a sense of continuity between the built and natural environment.

The palette of materials references the geology of the region and its legacy of copper and salt mining. At the center of the building, and recurring throughout the structure, is a highly textured form of wooden layers which we refer to as the building’s “core.” The intriguing patterns are inspired by the crystalline forms found deep within the earth, and there’s also a very practical consideration – when it’s cold outside, warm materials are all the more necessary. The core is essentially the “hearth” at the center of the building, and will be constructed from wood sourced from Russian forests.

When we embarked upon the project, we set about investigating the competing factors which give Perm its unique place in Russian history. After listening to the city’s stories and interviewing members of the public, we revealed a city uniquely proud of its cultural heritage – but without an inviting space for the arts community to gather. We consider such spaces to be a vital part of urban health and personal development, and the new theater is intended to provide a dynamic focal point for the city: a celebration of culture and industry, people and history, which will bring the city into a new era of cultural and economic development.

Executive Architect
  • Werner Sobek Moscow
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