Diller Scofidio + Renfro shares photography of the newly completed Tianjin Juilliard School

Let the Music Play

Diller Scofidio + Renfro shares photography of the newly completed Tianjin Juilliard School

A decade after Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) unveiled its show-stopping 100,000-square-foot expansion and renovation of The Juilliard School’s Upper West Side Manhattan campus, the New York-headquartered firm is now showing off its second campus for the performing arts conservatory in Tianjin, a major port city in northeastern China’s Hebei province. The project, which was first announced in 2015 and broke ground two years later, is the first satellite campus for 116-year-old Juilliard and the first completed project in China for DS+R. It’s also the firm’s first (realized) concert hall outside of the United States.

The Juilliard School’s campus in Tianjin officially opened late last year and is now making its wider public debut as students near the end of their first academic year. Earlier this week, DS+R partner Charles Renfro and Joseph Polisi, President Emeritus and Chief China Officer of The Juilliard School, hosted a virtual press tour of the complex, described as a “center for performance, practice, research, and interactive exhibitions, with communal spaces that are designed to welcome the public into the creative process and musical performances.”

Located along the Hai River, the 350,000-square-foot Tianjin Juilliard School features, among other things, a trio of “cornerstone” performance venues—a soaring 690-seat concert hall, a 299-seat recital hall, and a 255-seat black box theater—along with 23 private teaching studios, 12 classrooms, and 86 individual practice rooms distributed across multiple glass bridge structures. The bridges crisscross a column-free, 24,000-square-foot main lobby. A large number of plants, nurtured by ample sunlight let in through massive skylights, populate the welcoming lobby space.

A cantilevered exoskeleton-clad structure over a reflecting pool
Nighttime at the south plaza reflecting pool. (Zhang Chao/Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

The Tianjin Juilliard School, which is led by executive director and CEO Alexander Brose, along with dean and artistic director Wei He, plans to host upwards of 150 performances each year in the aforementioned main performance spaces, which are all accessible through the central lobby.

The shimmering riverside complex, comprised of four pavilions clad in high-performance glass assemblies, bead-blasted stainless steel, glass fiber reinforced concrete, and Parklex wood panels, also includes rehearsal halls for large symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles, a percussion suite, double-reed rooms, a music library, administrative offices, numerous public amenities including a large rooftop terrace, and suites for electronic composition, recording, and video editing.

A singular feature of the campus is Juilliard Imagination, an 8,800-square-foot space described by the school as “a multi-faceted, digital learning environment for exploring the rich tapestry of music, dance, and drama, providing a unique opportunity for the public to learn about Juilliard.”

Inside a concert hall decked out in timber panels
A performance in the main concert hall. (Zhang Chao/Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

Bookended by two large central plazas to the north and south, the lush landscape campus features a series of gardens, a spacious outdoor performance/community gathering space, and large reflecting pools that “form a dialogue with the nearby Hai River and create unique moments of reflection of the building and sky, adding an element of surprise where visitors can seemingly walk over water,” per DS+R. A network of pedestrian pathways links the campus to a nearby major rail station that provides access to and from down Beijing in 45 minutes via high-speed train.

Connecticut-based Jaffe Holden, the acoustical consulting firm that worked on Juilliard’s New York campus, also played an integral role in the design of the building, which, as noted by DS+R, was “built to meet the high demands for world-class acoustics and sound isolation, without compromising the building’s openness and transparency.” Joining DS+R and Jaffe Holden on the core design team were: East China Architectural Design & Research Institute (executive architect and structure/MEP), Hargreaves Jones (landscape architect), Arup (structure/MEP), Fisher Dachs Associates (theater design), and Tillotson Design Associates (lighting). MCC Tiangong Group Co., Ltd. served as general contractor.

Looking down into a lobby with a coffered grid ceiling
Lobby view with the pavilion-spanning bridges above. (Zhang Chao/Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

As the firm explained:

“Our design for the new much of its DNA from Juilliard’s New York campus, which we completed in 2009. Both projects seek to increase engagement with the public through openness and transparency; offer informal spaces for students to mix and gather; and provide teaching and performance spaces with world-class acoustics. In Tianjin, the ground floor lobby acts as a continuation of the surrounding park, accessible through multiple entries open to the public. We lowered the stages of the primary performance venues one level below grade so the halls could share loading, back of house and support spaces without interrupting the lobby. All of the teaching and practice spaces occupy five glass-clad bridges that span between the performance pavilions, bringing daylight and views to and from these education spaces while broadcasting the activities of the school to the general public. As both an educational tool and a performance vessel, the building acts a finely tuned and highly crafted instrument in and of itself.”

The Tianjin Juilliard School, which uniquely emphasis collaborative musicianship and is the first performing arts institution in China to confer a two-year, U.S.-accredited Master of Music (MM) degree, first opened late last yeah to 39 students from 11 countries enrolled in the school’s Graduate Division. Three majors are offered: Orchestral Studies, Chamber Music, and Collaborative Piano. Mirroring Juilliard’s Pre-College program in New York, the Tianjin campus also offers a conservatory-style program for pre-college students ages 8–18 held on weekends. (The current enrollment for that program is 82 students.) What’s more, The Tianjin Juilliard School also offers a public Music Development Program for students ages 5­–18 along with a range of continuing education offerings geared toward professional musicians, post-graduate musicians pursuing professional careers, and music teachers. All classes are taught in English.

Tianjin Juilliard School is a joint venture partnership between The Juilliard School, the Tianjin Conservatory of Music, the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area Administrative Commission, and the Tianjin Innovative Financial Investment Co.