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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Civics Sports Center and Arena in Shenyang, China by Emergent Architecture

June 22nd, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Emergen Acrchiteture

Civic Sports Center and 2013 National Games Arena, Shenyang, 2011

The site for this project is located at the heart of downtown Shenyang. Adjacent to Zhongshan Park, it is a connector between the natural and urban life of the city, making it a perfect location for a sports complex and for a National Games Arena. The facility has a total built area of 123,000 square meters.

Night View

  • Architect: Emergent Architecture
  • Name of Project: Civics Sports Center and Arena
  • Location: Shenyang, China
  • Type: Sports Civic Center, National Games Taekwondo Arena, Swimming Arena
  • Size: 123,000 m2
  • Status: First Place Competition Winner January, 2011 In Planning
  • Design Team: TomWiscombe, David Stamatis, Bin Lu, Robbie Eleazer, Amber Bartosh, Luis Quinones, Josh Moratto, Ryan Lamb, Matt Moran, Esteban Ochogavia, Brent Lucy

Our project is based on creating an artificial landscape for sports activities while also creating an icon for the Games. The roof of the Civic Recreation Center and Swimming Arena are interconnected to make this continuous, differentiated sports landscape connecting Park to city with cascading sports fields, pathways, and open space. This landscape features Soccer fields, basketball courts, tennis, badminton, and volleyball courts at various levels.

Civics Sports Center and Arena

The National Games Arena is located on the West end of the site– an iconic figure against the relaxed background of the sports landscape. This building is a symbol of both the Games and the new status of Shenyang as a top-ten Chinese provincial capital and international city. The architecture is based on crystal patterning found in nature at all scales. The design features large membrane bubble windows with views out to the Park and the city. The patterning of the windows spreads out onto the metal panel facades of the building, erupting as zones of solar panels on the roof.

Interior View


The National Games Arena building has its main entry from the Civic Square, but it can also be entered via bridges from the sports landscape on various levels. The arena is designed for 2,000 fixed seats above the mezzanine level and 2,000 removable seats below. With the lower seats removed, massive events can be held in the 40M x 70M space such as NBA games, Disney on Ice, international conferences, or rock concerts. The other sports functions in the building such as basketball, volleyball, and badminton courts are arranged like a gymnasium rather than in separate rooms. This also allows maximum flexibility of use.

Aerial View


These two buildings are combined into a lively multi-storey complex where people can engage in sports indoors at all times of the year. The Swimming Arena is located to the west end of the complex, nestled underneath the cascading sports landscape. All pools are contained within a grand open space making it a memorable and urban swimming experience. It can be entered either from the South Façade or from the Civic Square.

Aerial View

The recreation center is located adjacent to the Park, and has entries from the north, west, and south. It is organized by a passageway which connects the sides of the site together into a network. Sports activities are located on one of four levels, in clear groups for ease of orientation. Skylights daylight the interior spaces and offer views of people playing sports outside. Ground level functions such as galleries and restaurants cater to the general public, making the space a community center as much as a sports center.

Interior View


The Recreation Center and Swimming Arenas will be constructed out of reinforced concrete frame and slab construction for economy. Certain areas such as the pools and large gaming courts will feature column-less spaces and increased beam depth. Other spaces will relax back into a 7M x 7M economical grid spacing. This column grid will be carried all the way down through the parking garage in the basement.

Aerial View

The National Games Arena will be constructed out of reinforced concrete, concrete walls, and steel frame. The long span roof will be made from deep sculptured beams which will be stabilized by interior armatures. These beams will also contain the mechanical systems of the space. The opaque skin of the building will be aluminum panel, featuring thin-film solar technology in roof areas. The transparent areas will be made of ETFE bubbles, which are pressurized with air. This system is extremely lightweight compared to glazing, and therefore requires minimal structure to support it. In order to reduce solar gain in summer and heat-loss in winter, we propose to exchange patches of the transparent ETFE bubbles with translucent bubbles consisting of multiple layers of ETFE insulated with aero gel or other high-performance insulation.

Tom Wiscombe


EMERGENT, an internationally recognized design office operating at the forefront of digital design since 1999. The office’s work is driven by models of biology and computation as well as by contemporary design sensibilities. EMERGENT’s work stands out in terms of its synthesis of form, pattern, color, and technology. In particular, EMERGENT is known for its ability to blend aesthetic and engineering issues into singular, irreducible constructions.


EMERGENT’s work questions the dialectic of excess and efficiency in architecture, in favor of a more complex understanding of both through biological thinking. The cyclical process of mutation and selection in nature provides a model for making architecture which is ecological in the broadest sense of the word. This feedback logic is lived in the office through ‘messy computation’, which involves custom digital workflows designed to deal with heterogeneous inputs, anomalies, and performance criteria. Our interest is, however, not in promoting particular design techniques, but rather in the formal, spatial, and atmospheric effects produced at the back end.

Site Plan

EMERGENT has developed an international reputation through competitions entries, exhibitions of work at major institutions, and publications in over 250 books and magazines in 50 countries. ICON Magazine, in its May 2009 issue, named Principal Tom Wiscombe one of the “top 20 architects in the world who are making the future and transforming the way we work”.


About Tom Wiscombe

Tom Wiscombe is a licensed architect living in the United States. He is founder and principal of EMERGENT, an internationally recognized design office operating at the forefront of digital design since 1999. EMERGENT’s work stands out in terms of its synthesis of form, pattern, color, and technology. In 2009, ICON Magazine named Principal Tom Wiscombe one of the “top 20 architects in the world who are making the future and transforming the way we work”.


Tom is a senior faculty member at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). He teaches in the M.Arch II and Emerging Systems and Technologies programs, both focused on experimental digital design. He is currently Applied Studies Coordinator, in charge of curriculum building and faculty recruitment.

Site Plan

Previously, Tom worked for Coop Himmelblau, where he was the right hand of Principal Wolf Prix for over 10 years. Notably, he was Project Partner and Chief Office Designer for BMW Welt (Munich), known as one of the most important works of architecture of the 21st century.


In 2008, Tom founded Crystalline RP, a company that specializes in design and rapid prototyping for the motion picture, automotive, and aerospace industries. Tom began his career as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, where his father is Chief Scientist.



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