‘Creative Clouds’ in the sky

Nick Myall
Thursday 13 Oct 2016

The City stacks up in Shenzhen as WOHA Architects take the office tower typology to the next level

Against the backdrop of China’s homogenous urban development, the ‘Vertical Stacked City’ designed by WOHA Architects, presents an alternative office tower typology that promotes urban integration and facilitates social interaction. A micro vertical city with mixed programming is proposed. The integrated approach differentiates itself from the typical podium-tower type development by organising stacks of Corporate Offices and SOHOs into a distinct series of alternating, self-sustaining, horizontal stratums. This is supported by a Ground Stratum where the reception lobby is lifted off the ground plane to create a fully sheltered, public, pedestrianised and porous urban plaza that is activated by three levels of retail/F&B. Visually and spatially, the design affirms the unique qualities and characters of both the Corporate Offices and SOHOs, while celebrating the differences by juxtaposing their composition, scale, texture, colour and materiality. 

Conceived as layers of ‘Creative Clouds’ in the sky, the naturally ventilated and day lit SOHO clusters are externally characterised as a spontaneous burst of organically fitted volumes and an expressive interplay of random colours that are visually striking from street level. Counteracting the inhuman pro portions of tall buildings, the six-storey high massing is patterned after the scale of China’s former socialist housing. This is organised around a central core, with lift lobbies and common circulation spaces overlooking a shared Sky Alley that is activated by coffee shops, mini amphitheatres, child and senior care services, playgrounds, mahjong houses and community farms. 

Such an arrangement and scale produces an internal spatial quality that recalls the sense of intimacy and community associated with the traditional Fujian Tulou dwellings (Hakka clan housing), bringing a uniquely social dimension and village-like setting that injects life and vibrancy to the office tower. In contrast, the Corporate Offices are intentionally glassy, sleek and abstract, responding to the city as a silhouette and an iconic green landmark. A 24/7 interaction is established between the tower, city, and the environment by embedding transparent solar collectors into the glass curtain wall of the Corporate Offices. By day, the façade harvests energy, supporting zero energy sky gardens. By night, it powers integrated glass LED media screens and architectural facade lightings, bringing buzz, urban renewal and a model of tropical sustainability to the heart of Shenzhen’s Liu Xian Dong district.

Nick Myall
News editor

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