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Following the clouds in Shanghai

Nick Myall
Thursday 26 Jan 2017

Both of these buildings have green sedum roofs merging with the landscape when seen from nearby apartment buildings

Steven Holl Architects' design for a new Cultural and Health Centre in Shanghai was approved by COFCO, who commissioned the project in summer 2016.

The two buildings, set in a public landscape, will serve as a social condenser, bringing the community of the surrounding new housing blocks together in a public space and park along Punan canal.

Commenting on the project Steven Holl said: “To work on Architecture for Culture and Health is a social commitment, during these challenging times.”  

The new Shanghai Cultural and Health Centre and landscape are merged by the concept of “Clouds & Time,” a reference to philosopher Karl Popper’s famous 1965 lecture on the evolutionary model of free will, “Of Clouds and Clocks.” While the landscape is organized in large clock-like circles forming a central public space, the buildings are cloud-like in their porosity and openness inviting the public in.

The Cultural Centre, built out of white concrete, hovers over a transparent glass base which exposes the café, game and recreation rooms. A curved ramp, climbing gently up to the second floor creates a continuous overlooking experience. The Culture Centre supports an array of social and sport functions to promote community interaction and recreation, including an exhibition area, café, library, gym, and young activity areas.

The Health Centre, also made of white concrete, is shaped by the curves of the landscape, developing a strong relationship between its “cloud-like” parts and the whole of the landscape. The building will serve as a health consultation and education centre, housing a pharmacy, consultation and examination rooms, a nursery area and lounges.

Both buildings have green sedum roofs merging further with the landscape when seen from above and in the surrounding apartment buildings. The quarter circle pool and fountain reflects the building's central space and provides rainwater recycling. The buildings, which are geothermally cooled, are designed for LEED platinum certification.

Nick Myall

News editor

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