The Vanke Centre by Steven Holl and Li Hu 08.07.10

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The building is raised to preserve public open space (image: Christian Richters)

A "groundscraper" in Shenzhen has recently been completed by Steven Holl and Li Hu. The Vanke Centre is a massive mixed-use scheme for China's largest property developer. Lifted high off the ground, it gives the impression of being a number of distinct buildings attached to each other like conjoined twins.

Within this megastructure are offices for Vanke, as well as commercial, hotel and residential space in an indeterminate mix. "It keeps on shifting," says Li Hu, referring to the caprices of "organic" Chinese space planning. "I have ten different versions of the programme – even up to this day they're not sure."

From the moment the architects visited the site, they wanted to create one coherent structure for all the different uses. Although the building is monolithic, the singular form gives the project flexibility to adapt to changes in programme, while the irregularity reaches out to various views of the landscape nearby. It was also important to raise the building up, but this has less to do with grandiose gestures than a critical response to current urban trends. "Public space is disappearing in China and all around the site are fenced-off gated communities," says Li Hu. By lifting the building, they created one continuous park across the whole site. This is something Li Hu is understandably pleased about: "It's open to all the public, it's really well occupied and people like it!"

 

 Words

Douglas Murphy

quotes story

Lifted high off the ground, it gives the impression of being a number of distinct buildings attached to each other like conjoined twins

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