AS+GG strikes the right note

Wednesday 03 Oct 2012

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill win contest for Qintai Center with guzheng-inspired design

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture has won an international competition to design Qintai Center, a 248m (814ft) tall, high-performance corporate headquarters tower and related podium structure in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. AS+GG’s winning entry was selected over competing schemes from firms based in the Netherlands, Japan and Hong Kong.

Qintai Center’s total constructed area is 146,000 sq m, including a 5-star hotel and office space to be occupied by the client, Hubei Tobacco Company, and other tenants. The tower will be connected via a plaza and an above-grade pedestrian bridge to the podium, which will contain retail, restaurants and a conference centre with a ballroom. At the top of the tower, a special executive lounge and restaurants will offer spectacular views of the surrounding cityscape. The tower’s unique form is both culturally and environmentally contextual to the city of Wuhan.

“The genesis of the form in the competition phase related to the guzheng, a traditional Chinese musical instrument similar to a zither, featuring strings that are stretched over pegs that form a raised S curve over a rectangular wooden frame,” notes Adrian Smith, FAIA, RIBA. “The instrument is similar to the one featured in a Chinese legend with deep significance to the culture of Hubei, which in turn inspired our design process early on.”

During the ongoing concept design phase, the cultural influence of the building has been developed in relation to the building’s energy performance. Informed by a rigorous parametric analysis, the façade now bows outward in a diagonal line that ascends northwest up the tower. This shape has been adjusted to optimize self-shading and minimise solar heat gain, an effect augmented by the fact that both the tower and podium’s narrowest exposures are mostly to the east and west, from which the sun is harshest. In addition, the tower’s smaller floor plates allow for greater use of daylight harvesting, which in turn reduces the building’s energy consumption for artificial lighting.

“Our initial reference of Qintai Center in relation to a musical instrument has been refined with the building’s performance in mind,” says Gordon Gill, AIA. “Now the building has matured to have its own specific language tied to a broader environment context while still maintaining the cultural reference of the guzheng. In that sense, it’s an advancement of our firm’s continuing investigation into the relation of architectural form and sustainability, a concept summed up by the phrase ‘form follows performance.’”

Qintai Center is oriented to maximise views of Wuhan’s great bodies of water, including Moon Lake to the east and the nearby Hanshui River to the north. The building will also enjoy a perspective of the AS+GG-designed Wuhan Greenland Center, a supertall tower now in the early stages of construction about five miles from the Qintai site.

The cultural importance of Moon Lake and the city’s three rivers are emphasised on Qintai Center’s 25,863 sq m site by a series of pools and other water features that surround the tower and podium. The water features are also performative elements of the design, making the air feel fresher to building users in Wuhan’s hot climate. Water for these elements will come from stormwater and/or recovered condensate from the complex.

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