Design on the edge

Monday 16 Nov 2009

Sparch takes a strong design angle at newly completed Raffles City

Work rest and play were to be accommodated at CapitaLand’s Raffles City in Beijing, but Sparch were tasked with creating more than just a functional arrangement, they were to create a visual spectacle to entice visitors and make their journeys surprising, memorable and enjoyable. The recently completed master-plex is the first Raffles City development on a new architectural scale, soon to be followed with projects by Raphael Vinoly in Bahrain, Stephen Holl in Chengdu, UN Studio in Hangzhou and Sparch in Ningbo.

Comprising a 21 storey office tower, five storey retail podium and immediately above, a 15 storey residential block to the west and 17 storey serviced apartment block to the east, each of the elements works both independently and in solidarity. A united campus is formed with a uniform of crystalline elements introduced at various levels and in unique ways - each element is treated differently but all are visually unified. The retail podium and ‘Clubhouse’ forming the entrance to the serviced apartments feature as the most dramatic of these elements. Dubbed the 'Crystal Lotus' a crystalline cantilevered structure rises from the foodcourt at basement level to support the sweeping glass roof. As its circumference grows larger towards the top, it encloses the main lift shaft and accommodates larger shops on the upper floors. Sparch thus freed up the ground floor plan for an event space underneath the Crystal Lotus’ cantilever.

Raffles City is strategically located at a crossroads with Beijing’s famous 24-hour restaurant promenade ‘Ghost Street’. The architects have taken significant steps to ensure that the development integrates with its surrounds. Various measures introduce public space, significantly a public plaza at the northeastern corner has already become a popular place from which to watch a large LED screen embedded in the facade. But the very orientation of the building is also specifically designed to connect with the surrounding area and draw visitors into the complex visually:

“Significant emphasis had been given to the design of the northeast corner of the development,” say Sparch. “The office tower and podium turn 45 degrees towards the transport interchange diagonally opposite the urban plaza in front of the main retail entrance.

This dynamic visual connection extends as a vertical slot in between the retail podium and the lower levels of the office building. This canyon-like space provides an urban corridor opening up the city block to its hinterland of low-rise residential buildings. The centre of this slot is occupied by a small crystalline enclosure serving as the lobby to the office tower and a sheltered link between retail and office.”

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