Sliced Porosity Block by Steven Holl completes in Chengdu, interspersed with water features and three pavilions
In 2008, one of Asia’s largest real estate developers, CapitaLand, commissioned Steven Holl Architects to design a dynamic hybrid development in the centre of Chengdu, China. Five years later and the team are celebrating the official completion of the Sliced Porosity Block, a LEED Gold complex which offers a smooth blend of quality real estate and unrestricted public space.
Chengdu is swiftly establishing itself as one of China’s most architecturally diverse cities. From KSP Jurgen Engel Architekten International’s Sino-German High-Tech Industrial Service Platform with its dramatic banded void to Aedas’ jagged Chengdu Megli the Celadon and the shapely series of 30 curvilinear clubhouses by Keppie, Chengdu is open to a variety of architectural expressions.
Also on the cards is a glittering new 1.3 sq km city by tall building specialists Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill: Chengdu Tianfu District Great City on the boundary of Chengdu. Should this concept design be seen through to realisation, it will be connected with the main bulk of Chengdu by a new mass transit system.
Steven Holl Architects’ Sliced Porosity Block is the latest completed addition to Chengdu’s ever-growing skyline. Inspired by Du Fu, a local poet of the Tang Dynasty, the contemporary design studio drew on a specific poem for the design of the Sliced Porosity Block which reads: “From the northeast storm-tossed to the southwest, time has left stranded in Three Valleys.”
In response, Steven Holl Architects has animated the mixed-use development with a triplet of plazas, each incorporating a water garden inspired by differing concepts of time: The Fountain of the Chinese Calendar Year; The Fountain of Twelve Months; and The Fountain of Thirty Days. Water is drawn through these plazas toward underwater skylights which form the ceiling of a six-storey shopping mall below.
Whilst enlivening the development from an aesthetic aspect, these three water features also play an active role in the sustainability element of the Sliced Porosity Block. Rainwater is captured by the triplet of ponds and recycled for use elsewhere in the building while natural grasses and lily pads create a natural cooling effect. These factors, coupled with geo-thermal cooling, high-performance glazing, and the use of regional materials have resulted in LEED Gold certification for the completed scheme.
In total, the Sliced Porosity Block measures 3 million sq ft and offers serviced apartments, retail units, a hotel, café and various restaurants but it is the generous open public spaces that sets the design apart. To keep in line with the stipulated minimum sunlight exposure to surrounding buildings, the white concrete frame has been sliced through with glass panels, conforming to precise geometric angles and sporting 6ft-high openings with earthquake diagonals.
Adding a unique flavour to the project is a series of three pavilions enveloped into voids in the concrete frame: the Pavilion of History by Steven Holl Architects; the Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods; and the Local Art Pavilion by Chinese Sculptor Han Meilin.