Busan Opera House
An open space for culture


Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Architecture


The Busan Opera House is set to transform the opera from a passive playground for the few to an interactive and democratic space for the many. A place to meet and be together in a common cultural context. With a soft wrapping, a publicly accessible rooftop and entrances from both the park and seaside, its design opens the building up to the public in a continuous welcoming gesture.

Located on reclaimed land on the Busan’s waterfront, the new opera house will convert a historically industrial area into a lively public space in the city. The open and inviting building will mark the entrance into a new era of contemporary architecture reflecting values of equality and democracy.

Technical details

Performance Space, Public Space
Under Construction
Busan, South Korea

Busan Metropolitan City Government


Ilshin Architects

48 000 m2

Photo: Snøhetta and Tegmark

Heaven, earth and water

The building form is derived from its context and culture. The layout refers to Kun (heaven) meeting Kon (earth) which again meet Kam (water). The classical trigrams of these elements describe the site exceptionally well, whilst also referring to historical and philosophical relationships of great significance to Korean culture. The slight bending of the building’s surfaces are the bars of the trigrams, slightly deformed to touch and meet each other in a subtle manner.

Photo: Snøhetta and Tegmark

Opposing curves

The geometry of the building consists of two opposing curves. The lower arching curve bridges the site and anchors the project, while the upper embraces the sky. The opera is created within the interplay of these surfaces, where the earth touches the sky, and the mountains touch the sea. The four corners of the building connect the city and the cultural landmark to the sea. Two of these corners are lifted to form an entrance from the city and an entrance from the sea. These entrances are linked in a continuous public space, flowing around the opera house and out into the public plaza. The upper plane is lifted on the opposite diagonal to accommodate the programmatic volume and to create an exterior plane that both arches down to the city and the sea at the same time as it peels upwards to meet the sea and the sky.

Photo: Snøhetta and Tegmark

A world-class opera house

The Busan Opera House is designed to be as open as possible on the ground level. The foyer space wraps around two sides of the building towards the sea. This level is the location for the main front of house foyer, restaurant, and public entrance to the parterre. At the heart of the building, the opera hall is conceived as a musical instrument, precisely formed to resonate with the operatic acoustics. Solid panels of cherry wood contribute to maximizing the acoustics in the space.

Photo: Snøhetta and MIR

Photo: Snøhetta and Tegmark

Second public space

Characteristic onramps lead to a second public space on the rooftop, giving back to the public what the building’s footprint occupies by allowing visitors to walk on its roof. Designed as a plane of reflection and contemplation, the rooftop is a stark contrast to the bustle of the ground. Open and accessible to all, the roof level enjoys unrivalled views to the mountains and ocean.

A soft, flowing skin spans the two public planes while also enveloping the public functions. This offers protection and transparency to the foyer within and links the ground plane to the roof plane in an unbroken movement.

Photo: Snøhetta and Tegmark