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.
Wisdom Plaza in Shenzhen, China by MAPA
October 21st, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: MAPA
Wisdom Plaza is a low density office and commercial estate that consists of four office blocks linked by a landscaped garden with a partly submerged commercial space. It is conceived as a unique looking built-form, green and sustainable office complex that allow users maximum flexibility in layout design amid a lush, green, landscaped environment. Many unique architectural features previously not seen in office space design are produced here resulting in a delightful and highly functional new form.
The site is located on the western stretch of Qiaoxiang Road, north to the edge of Shenzhen’s famous Overseas Chinese Town, with close proximity to its lush green forest park and hill. The surrounding built form consists of 2 to 3 stories factories waiting to be re-developed.
Set upon a land use area of 27000m2 and a plot ratio of 3.7, the 4 office buildings are configured as two sets of twin low-rise and high-rise blocks. Shenzhen has a sub-tropical climate and the main wind direction is from the south-east. Thus the office slab blocks are rotated and staggered in plan to allow longer frontage to the south. To further breakdown the massive form each staggered unit is applied a different hue (blue, green and gold). The four blocks are spaced generously apart amid the landscape to improve natural ventilation and allow natural light to reach every face of the blocks. The high-rise blocks are lifted off ground to form an open ‘void-deck’ area; a social-space that connects the lift lobbies to the garden spaces, creating a continuous horizontal green space.
A central sunken plaza links the submerged commercial spaces to the garden landscape and together with numerous air-wells, air can flow through to the underground car park spaces. Wisdom Plaza has three basement levels. The car park in Basement One, which connects to the sunken plaza, is conceived as a high-ceiling, partial outdoor parking space that differentiates itself from typical car garages.
The sales positioning and target of this project was translated programmatically and formally into a combination of two low-rise 6 storey blocks and two 23 storey high-rise blocks; in which the two 7000m2 low-rise blocks would be sold individually to two Fortune 500 Corporations to be used as Company Headquarters. The twin high-rise blocks’ office floor sizes are fixed at two sizes: 760m2 and 1200m2; aimed at mid to large-sized companies that require such large office spaces.
Due to the specificity of the required program, the office floor plans are designed to delineate from the typical ‘central core’ office layout. The floor plans here are stretched east-west to achieve maximum south-facing sides for each unit and the main lift core is placed at one side combined with another smaller one at the other end. Coupled with a floor-to-floor height of 4.3metres and a structural span of 17metres, this creates a large column-less, uninterrupted, bright and airy office space that can be configured in various layouts.
Two sets of lift cores serve each office unit. Four passenger lifts are placed at one end for the general office workers of any corporation. There are two ‘VIP’ passenger lifts in the other core to be used by the corporations’ executives thus allowing the bosses of each company to arrive at their floor independently. One goods lift is placed in the middle of the two units.
To allow users higher flexibility in planning their office space, the VIP and toilet areas have structural drop-slabs to allow users to configure their spaces and toilets according to their needs.
One special feature of these offices is the cantilevered balcony spaces strategically placed at the eastern and western facades to provide shade against the sun. Each office unit comes with a set of two large balcony spaces (35-80 m2); one slated for the public the other for the VIP area. The balconies are staggered from floor to floor to achieve a high, comfortable double-storey ceiling height, coupled with partial drop slabs that allow real soil to be used for planting. This extended space creates a green landscaped outdoor area for the office workers to take breaks from their work to smoke, relax and socialize.
The large balconies became the main architectural elements that encompass the overall language of the built-form. The old Chinese saying of ‘The sky is round; the earth is square’ and ‘The Outside is round; its Inside the square’, dictates the choice of form of the buildings. The balconies are designed as curved elements, each with a different size that results in an overall vertical curve. The balconies stretch and bend to engulf the rectangular slab blocks to create a strong and rhythmic structure; which together with minute nuances and details, produce a unique architecture form. The overall ‘biomorphic’ effect could be read as affiliations to elements like ‘bamboo, ocean waves or a ship’s bow’.
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