© Morphosis Architects / Thom Mayne . Published on March 31, 2009.
© Morphosis Architects / Thom Mayne . Published on March 31, 2009.
Shenzhen, Southern China’s major financial center and among the fastest growing cities in China for the past thirty years, exemplifies the contemporary global city. Movement-, communication- and transaction-based, Shenzhen’s new Financial District is fundamentally a space of exchange, a “networked, a-historical space of flows.” 1 Interconnected systems of exchange permeate not only Shenzhen’s international commerce, but also the city’s civic life and the interactions between individual citizens and workers. Our nuanced, three-dimensional urban design integrates core values of sustainability and connectivity into an innovative vision for a 21st century master plan. The resultant architecture reflects both a global significance and local specificity to Shenzhen, the site, and each client.
Broadly understood, three primary principles drive the 4 Towers in 1 project:
- An Interconnected, Three-Dimensional Master Plan:
In response to the interconnectedness of the new global city, our scheme re-conceives the conventional urban grid as a dynamic, multi-dimensional organization, or armature, able to support the complex systems that define contemporary urban life. Like the complex yet coherent intricacy of a traditional Chinese puzzle, each site is conceived as a 3-dimensional envelope, interwoven with the other projects, rather than as a 2-dimensional isolated footprint. The well-established strategy of transferring air rights allows the zoning envelope for each building site to evolve beyond a simple vertical extrusion of the site’s footprint, to facilitate a network of interlocking forms reminiscent of the venerated Chinese puzzle.
- Reconceiving the Icon of the Tower to Create a Distinctive Financial District
Our scheme questions the appropriateness of creating a field of disassociated vertical skyscrapers on the site, in favor of creating a cohesive, interwoven district. The tower—conventionally thought of as an isolated, autonomous object—is now rooted in a new urban fabric, interwoven with fluid built forms and vibrant civic spaces. Rather than considering each individual tower as its own discrete icon, our scheme conceives the entire Financial District as a new type of icon—a district with its own unique character amidst the greater city of Shenzhen—that will be recognized the world over.
- Forging a Synergistic Collaboration Between the Public and the Private Sector
Extending the primary metaphor of the Chinese puzzle, each individual project maintains its distinct form and identity while integrating with the other elements of the project. The result is a holistic scheme that is greater than the sum of its parts—where integration and collaboration create enormous pragmatic and symbolic potential for all stakeholders. This scheme creates a scenario that is beneficial for both the public sector and each private institution: an enduring vision for the city, that both expresses public purpose and intentionality and amplifies the identity of the individual projects and the institutions they represent.
ENVISIONING AN INTERCONNECTED, THREE DIMENSIONAL MASTER PLAN
Our three-dimensional design approach maximizes the sites’ latent potential and creates a critical identity for the Financial District within Shenzhen. The master plan creates an armature for a web of constituents and relationships, at the level of identity, history, infrastructure, finance, economy, and physical space. This strategy allows a nuanced and diverse urban vision to be realized in a condensed timeframe, yet also allows for implementation of individual components, as needed, without jeopardizing the integrity of the master plan.
Historically, in the most successful urban forms, historical and cultural layers overlap and fuse to produce a distinct sense of place. The historic city of Xi’An, for example, envelops a multiplicity of ideas, histories, and cultures. Cities such as Shanghai and Beijing encompass a richness of diversity that accrues gradually, over time and in waves. These urban models have grown organically; they express a continuity of fabric and an unequivocal identity that reflects their specific climates, geographies, and cultures. Our scheme for the 4 Towers in 1 competition endeavors to incorporate these kinds of specific, cosmopolitan characteristics in the master plan vision. By overlaying urban systems onto the buildings and grafting multiple layers of activity into the sites, an interconnected, three-dimensional intricacy emerges.
CREATING AN ICONIC IDENTITY FOR THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT
Our hybrid master plan creates a distinct sense of place—a vibrant financial district that engages in and contributes to the life of the city. Rather than producing four isolated and autonomous towers, our scheme creates an icon for the entire district. Departing from the traditional urban grid of towers, this new typology creates a more cohesive, interconnected district, characterized by increased social interaction and urban density. Similar to Wall Street, which clearly has its own architectural and urban character distinct from the greater context of Manhattan, the new Financial District in Shenzhen expresses a distinct character amidst the greater city and establishes a global image comparable to the world’s most celebrated financial centers.
Like a streetscape inundated with a cacophony of billboards, so dense that the individual billboards struggle to communicate their discrete messages, the world’s rapidly growing urban centers risk becoming a jumbled tapestry of iconic towers, in which the uniqueness of each is overwhelmed by the cacophony of the crowd. Our approach shifts the entire paradigm, turning the whole district into a cohesive icon, rather than a series of competing isolated icons. Ultimately, we believe this approach creates a condition in which each individual institution can more successfully highlight its identity while simultaneously creating synergy within the district. This integrated district has the opportunity to become the symbol for the spirit of interconnectedness and cooperation necessitated by the new global economy.
The new, hybridized typology interweaves vertical towers with ribbon buildings, which are conceived as undulating, dragon-like strands with dramatic cantilevers. The vertical, orthogonal towers relate to the scale and geometry of the neighboring Shenzhen Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen skyline, while the dragon-like ribbon buildings command their own identity and radical distinction from the traditional tower. Maintaining the same required floor area and volume as a vertical tower, the ribbon buildings accommodate the required capacity without literally embodying the tower form.
State of the art graphic displays track across the façade of each building to express a strong, dynamic identity for each client, as well as a unified image for the new district. These activate surfaces engage passersby as direct participants in the networks of connectivity, establishing a reciprocal dialogue between viewer and architecture. The intelligent, dynamic system can be programmed to offer evolving, real-time, client-driven content. Graphic and typographic spectacles for special events, news flashes, and cultural installations can temporarily transform individual towers or the whole district into a setting uniquely suited for a specific function. The mutable graphic displays are also capable of responding to diurnal and seasonal shifts, to symbolically represent natural cycles, such as the seasons, elements, and stages of growth. Both aesthetically and conceptually, the animated environmental graphics complement the interwoven architectural forms.
Our comprehensive vision creates a synergistic master plan through complementary built forms. It is important to note, however, that each building can be developed independently. Each of the four individual projects commands an iconic identity, and can act as a distinct, differentiated entity. The scheme has been conceived as an eminently flexible and divisible system that can adjust in response to changing client needs and market demands without compromising the project’s integrity, quality and character. The individual forms can efficiently and coherently be modified to accommodate the particular needs of each client.
Each building type maximizes space-planning flexibility to best accommodate each client’s unique identity and programmatic needs. The ribbon buildings’ predominant spatial organization – the combination of columns and diagrid structural system (a diagonal grid of steel beams)—allows for floor plate areas that optimize efficiency, natural light and views. The China Construction Bank and China Insurance Group Towers’ efficient structural system—a structural core, with columns located on a very efficient grid spacing, and designated floor plates that transfer load back to the core—also facilitates open space plans that maximize access to natural light, ventilation and expansive views.
LANDSCAPE AND CIRCULATION
Circulation moves fluidly through plazas, pathways and landscaped courtyards, introducing welcoming green spaces to pedestrians, and offering a richness of shopping, dining, and social experiences at street-level. Two primary layers of circulation activate both the street and semi-public spaces within the buildings: public circulation is located at ground level, to access the adjacent café and retail levels; and semi-public circulation is located within the buildings, above the third level, to access meeting rooms, gyms, conference centers and business halls.
Layered program and circulation increases the utility of the sites, allowing more intensity while freeing up the ground plane for green space. The built forms define four primary courtyards, and a variety of smaller courtyards and plazas. The courtyards connect to and provide a pedestrian-scaled counterpoint to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange plaza, serve as a valuable recreational amenity and social space for employees and the public, and support sustainable objectives. Variations in scale and orientation lend a distinct character to each courtyard: the Shenzhen Media Group building’s cantilever extends dramatically above the ground, creating a grand gateway to the large courtyard circumscribed by the building’s undulating forms, and shared with the existing Shenzhen Media Group facility; rolling landscape berms weave below the China Construction Bank building and the planned China Merchants Bank, to create a pedestrian promenade lined with shops and cafes; the China Insurance Group and Southern & Bosera Funds buildings pull back from the street corner to create two large urban plazas, and encircle a more intimate courtyard at the center of the block.
Rather than limit the distribution of urban social spaces to the street level, our scheme incorporates atria, gardens and plazas vertically throughout the buildings, enhancing the workplace environment and creating highly desirable public spaces for the benefit of tenants and V.I.P.s. The China Construction Bank’s architectural language affords large, open interior spaces for formal and informal gatherings. Exterior sky gardens (‘slots’) and interior double-height sky plazas (‘tubes’) puncture the tower to provide opportunities for employees to gather across the typical confines of departments or floors. The China Insurance Group is organized around a series of distinctive, soaring central atria that vertically penetrate the building. These open-air volumes create view corridors for the majority of employees and draw natural ventilation into the interior. Additionally, the China Insurance Group’s substantial sky garden, located in the four upper levels of the tower’s penthouse, contributes to the institution’s distinct identity.
Truly successful green design is much more than a collection of technologies; it is a process of creating places that restore our connection to nature, and enhance our productivity and well being. The ongoing challenges to the management of resources demand that developers, planners and architects embrace their position as stewards of the environment, to propose economically, environmentally and socially sustainable alternatives to the growth of cities. Our scheme for the 4 Towers in 1 Competition responds to this challenge with a vision that reduces consumption of natural resources, minimizes waste, and creates a workspace of exceptional quality and comfort for its users. Please refer to the following M.E.P. narrative for an in-depth discussion of our scheme’s innovative solutions that capitalize on state of the art systems and technology to maximize energy efficiency.