Posts tagged with "China":

Placeholder Alt Text

Potential tile tariffs drive a wedge between distributors and designers

Seizing on the momentum generated by the Trump administration’s timber and steel tariffs, a coalition of tile manufacturers is lobbying the U.S. government to impose tariffs of over 400 percent on Chinese-supplied ceramic tiles. While the approval of new duties could lift domestic producers, some design industry professionals are pushing back. On April 10, eight U.S. ceramic tile producers, all members of the Tile Council of North America, successfully petitioned the Department of Commerce (DOC) to launch an investigation into China’s practice of tile dumping. That group, collected under the name "Coalition for Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile," included American Wonder Porcelain, Florida Tile, Inc., Crossville, Inc., Florim USA, Dal-Tile Corporation, Landmark Ceramics, Del Conca USA, Inc., and StonePeak Ceramics. The coalition claims that the Chinese government is subsidizing the production of ceramic tiles to below-market-rate prices (or even below production costs) to artificially crowd out the competition, and the group is asking that the DOC impose retaliatory penalties on Chinese manufacturers to level the playing field. To avoid confusion over what is and is not a tile, the coalition has issued a blanket request pertaining to any tile-like product, no matter the use, thickness, or design, for pieces up to five-feet-by-fifteen-feet. The scope of the complaint also includes tile originating in China and modified— beveled, painted, or refined in any way—in the United States. In response, the newly-formed Ceramic Tile Alliance (CTA), a group of designers, retailers, and distributors, has launched a petition against imposing new tariffs on Chinese tile. The group argues that doing so would hurt the long-term health of the U.S. ceramics industry to the benefit of domestic manufacturers, that architects and interior designers would lose valuable connections that they’ve cultivated with international artisans, and that retailers would only be able to offer a limited selection. Additionally, the CTA alleges that showrooms would need to renovate their displays, some of them larger wall and floor pieces, to reflect that certain products would be no longer available. Overall, the CTA estimates that “thousands” of jobs could be lost as distributors and retailers would be forced out of business by higher prices and restricted supplies. The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) will issue a preliminary injury determination by May 27. If the ITC and DOC find in favor of the coalition, the duties could be imposed as early as the beginning of next May.
Placeholder Alt Text

How Baidu Maps turns location data into 3-D cityscapes—and big profits

Level 3, number 203. Turn right 10 feet. Go straight for 15 feet. The best way to experience data's strong grip on everyday life in China is to open up Baidu Maps, a mapping app by China’s biggest search engine company, and walk around a shopping mall for one afternoon. Inside the building, a network of Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi modems, and satellites from a global navigation satellite system whir and ping through the air and the ionosphere to determine your precise location. The map on the Baidu app tilts to reveal an elaborately modeled 3-D cityscape.

The resolution of Baidu Maps is stunning: Entire cities are modeled in 3-D. Within public buildings, the floorplan of each building level is precisely mapped. As I stand inside the Taikoo Hui Mall in the city of Guangzhou, China, I search for a store within the mall. Baidu Maps reveals which level the store is on and how many meters I need to walk. Strolling through the mall with the app tracking my location with a blue dot on the screen, life starts to feel like a virtual reality experience. The difference between the map's 3-D model and the reality beneath my feet is smaller than ever. The 3-D model makes an uncanny loop: Virtual models were used by architects and designers to design these spaces, which now unfold on a messy plane between real space and screen space.

China now has its own tech giants—Alibaba, JD.com, Tencent Holdings, and Baidu—homegrown behind the Great Firewall of China. Like their American counterparts, these companies have managed to surveil their users and extract valuable data to create new products and features. Baidu began as a search engine, but has now branched out into autonomous driving, and therefore, maps. The intricacy of its 3-D visualizations is the result of over 600 million users consulting the app for navigation every day or using apps that rely on Baidu Maps in the background, such as weather apps that rely on its geolocation features.

The tech company, like its counterparts such as Google, take advantage of multiple features available in smartphones. Smartphones possess the ability to determine users’ positions by communicating with an array of satellites such as GPS (Global Positioning Service); GLONASS, Russia’s version of GPS; or BeiDou, China’s satellite navigation system. Such satellite systems are public infrastructures created by American, Russian, and Chinese governments, respectively, that enable our phones to determine users’ precise longitude and latitude coordinates. The majority of apps and services on smartphones rely on location services, from food delivery to restaurant reviews. However, satellite navigation systems are still imprecise—they are often a few meters off, with anything from the weather to tall buildings affecting accuracy.

However, smartphones contain more than satellite signal receiver chips. A slew of other sensors, such as accelerometers, light sensors, and magnets are embedded in the average smartphone. In 2015, Baidu invested $10 million in IndoorAtlas, a Silicon Valley startup that specializes in indoor mapping. The company's technology is at the forefront of magnetic positioning, which allows indoor maps at 1-meter accuracy to be created simply by using an average smartphone. This technology relies on the Earth's geomagnetic field and the magnets in smartphones. By factoring in the unique magnetic "fingerprint" of each building based on the composition of its materials, such as steel, a building's floor plan can be mapped out without any data provided by the architect. However, this strategy requires user data at scale; multiple user paths need to be recorded and averaged out to account for any anomalies. Gathering large amounts of data from users becomes an imperative.

Floorplans aside, magnetic positioning is not the only dimension of user location data collection that allows data to become a spatial model. As people drive, bike, and walk, each user generates a spatial "trace" that also has velocity data attached to it. Through such data, information about the type of path can be derived: Is it a street, a sidewalk, or a highway? This information becomes increasingly useful in improving the accuracy of Baidu Maps itself, as well as Baidu's autonomous vehicle projects.

The detailed 3-D city models on Baidu Maps offer data that urban designers dream of, but such models only serve Baidu's interests. Satellite navigation system accuracy deteriorates in urban canyons, due to skyscrapers and building density, obscuring satellites from the receiver chip. These inaccuracies are problematic for autonomous vehicles, given the "safety critical" nature of self-driving cars. Baidu's 3-D maps are not just an aesthetic “wow factor” but also a feature that addresses positioning inaccuracies. By using 3-D models to factor in the sizes and shapes of building envelopes, inaccuracies in longitude and latitude coordinates can be corrected.

Much of this research has been a race between U.S. and Chinese companies in the quest to build self-driving cars. While some 3-D models come from city planning data, in China's ever-changing urban landscape, satellite data has proved far more helpful in generating 3-D building models. Similar to Google's 3-D-generated buildings, a combination of shadow analysis, satellite imagery, and street view have proved essential for automatically creating 3-D building models rather than the manual task of user-generated, uploaded buildings or relying on city surveyors for the most recent and accurate building dimensions.

None of this data is available to the people who design cities or buildings. Both Baidu and Google have End User License Agreements (EULAs) that restrict where their data can be used, and emphasize that such data has to be used within Baidu or Google apps. Some data is made available for computer scientists and self-driving car researchers, such as Baidu's Research Open-Access Dataset (BROAD) training data sets. Most designers have to rely on free, open-source data such as Open Street Maps, a Wikipedia-like alternative to Baidu and Google Maps. By walling off valuable data that could help urban planning, tech companies are gaining a foothold and control over the reality of material life: they have more valuable insights into transport networks and the movements of people than urban designers do. It's no surprise then, that both Baidu and Google are making forays into piloting smart cities like Toronto’s Quayside or Shanghai's Baoshan District, and gaining even greater control over urban space. No doubt, urban planning and architecture are becoming increasingly automated and privately controlled in the realm of computer scientists rather than designers.

In Shoshana Zuboff's 2019 book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, she examines how tech companies throughout the world are employing surveillance and data extraction methods to turn users into free laborers. Our “behavioral surplus,” as she terms it, becomes transformed into products that are highly lucrative for these companies, and feature proprietary, walled-off data that ordinary users cannot access, even though their labor has helped create these products. These products are also marketed as “predictive,” which feeds the desires of companies that hope to anticipate users’ behavior—companies that see users only as targets of advertising.

Over the past several years, American rhetoric surrounding the Chinese “surveillance state” has reached fever pitch. But while China is perceived to be a single-party communist country with state-owned enterprises that do its bidding, the truth is, since the 1990s, much of the country’s emphasis has been on private growth. Baidu is a private company, not a state-owned enterprise. Companies like Baidu have majority investment from global companies, including many U.S.-based funds like T. Rowe Price, Vanguard, and BlackRock. As China's economy slows down, the government is increasingly pressured to play by the rules of the global capitalist book and offer greater freedom to private companies alongside less interference from the government. However, private companies often contract with the government to create surveillance measures used across the country.

The rhetoric about the dangers of Chinese state surveillance obfuscates what is also happening in American homes—literally. As Google unveils home assistants that interface with other “smart” appliances, and Google Maps installed on mobile phones tracks user locations, surveillance becomes ubiquitous. Based on your location data, appliances can turn on as you enter your home, and advertisements for milk from your smart fridge can pop up as you walk by the grocery stores. Third-party data provider companies also tap into geolocation data, and combined with the use of smart objects like smart TVs, toasters, and fridges, it's easy to see why the future might be filled with such scenarios. Indeed, if you own certain smart appliances, Google probably knows what the inside of your home is like. In 2018, iRobot, the maker of the Roomba vacuum, announced that it was partnering with Google to improve the indoor mapping of homes, and now setting up a Roomba with Google Home has never been easier. Big tech companies in the U.S. would like us to believe that surveillance is worse elsewhere, when really, surveillance capitalism is a global condition.

Over the past 30 years, cities around the world have been the locus of enormous economic growth and corresponding increases in inequality. Metropolitan areas with tech-driven economies, such as the Shenzhen-Guangzhou-Hong Kong corridor and the Greater Bay Area, are home to some of the largest tech companies in the world. They are also home to some of the most advanced forms of technological urbanism: While Baidu may not have every single business mapped in rural China, it certainly has the listing of every shop in every mall of Guangzhou.

The overlap between cities as beacons of capital and as spaces where surveillance is ubiquitous is no coincidence. As Google’s parent company, Alphabet, makes moves to build cities and as Baidu aggressively pursues autonomous driving, data about a place, the people who live there, and their daily movements is increasingly crucial to the project of optimizing the city and creating new products, which in turn generates more wealth and more inequality. Places like San Francisco and Shenzhen are well-mapped by large tech companies but harbor some of the worst income gaps in the world.

The "smart city" urbanism enabled by surveillance and ubiquitous data collection is no different from other forms of development that erode affordable housing and public space. Reclaiming our cities in this digital age is not just about reclaiming physical space. We must also reclaim our data.

Placeholder Alt Text

Chinese blogger pays penalty after claiming ZHA complex has bad feng shui

Chinese real estate developer SOHO China has won a 200,000 yuan—nearly $30,000—libel case against a blogger who wrote that the Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)-designed Wangjing SOHO was bringing bad luck to its tenants. In November of last year, a blog run by Zhuhai Shengun Network Technology wrote that the triple-building office complex in Beijing had bad feng shui. Among the article’s many claims is that the pebble-shaped buildings looked like “pig kidneys” and that they were a “Waterloo” for the companies working within. The post, which was viewed over 100,000 times before being deleted from messaging platform WeChat, went on to say that larger companies should flee the Wangjing SOHO unless they wanted their growth to slow. On April 10, a Beijing district court ordered that the blog operator pay $29,796 and apologize to SOHO China. In its verdict, the court ruled that the article “applies superstition to Wangjing Soho building, which institutes defamation,” according to the South China Morning Post. The blog itself, S Shengunju S, was deleted in November along with 9,800 other accounts as part of a larger social media post and blog purge by the Chinese government. Feng shui is an ancient practice of precisely orienting buildings and their interiors to invite in energy, wealth, and prosperity that still has many modern adherents all over the world. However, regardless of whether the feng shui of the 5.4 million-square-foot Wangjing SOHO is off or not, the complex has been a success by more than one measure; after the complex’s design was “stolen” in 2013, it went on to win several awards and has a 98 percent occupancy rate.
Placeholder Alt Text

“Great” construction projects in America? Starchitects say: look elsewhere


A strange thing has been happening at some public architecture talks lately, perhaps you’ve noticed. Over the course of otherwise hopeful and positive discussions covering amazing new projects from around the globe, at some point, usually toward the end of a talk, conversation turns to the current state of American building and infrastructure. And, it's safe to say, people are not happy. Sometimes, the presenter will rip off the bandaid, as Thom Mayne of Morphosis did at a recent Facades+  talk in Los Angeles, when he said, “I hate to be negative, but there’s not much going on in this country architecturally,” before adding, “[But] if you look at architecture around the world, it’s startling…It’s unbelievable, the research [taking place]—I just came back from Shenzhen [China] and I’m looking around [at the skyline] there wondering ‘is there anything left for me to do?’” Other times, a perplexed-sounding audience member will ask what it seems many in attendance had been pondering privately: “Why can’t we build like this here?” 

 It’s a debilitating question that really only has one answer. And although, even when speaking bluntly, everyone tries their best to truth-tell without offending, but the writing is right on the projection screen—building big in America simply isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t know what to do about it.

 “The United States is falling behind,” architect Moshe Safdie explained to a packed room during a recent keynote talk at Palm Springs Modernism Week when asked why the inventive array of projects he had just presented are mostly located outside the United States. “Around the world, the competition [for bold infrastructure] doesn’t stop,” he said, half-jokingly, “until you land at Kennedy or LAX.” 

 To prove his point, Safdie pointed out further that although the Hudson Yards development in New York City is the largest privately-led construction project in the country by square footage, it is easily dwarfed in terms of vision by countless projects around the globe of a similar or larger size. 

 He’s right. Hudson Yards is a dime a dozen as far as global mega-projects are concerned. Safdie’s own Raffles City development in Chongqing, China, for example, might be roughly two-thirds the size of Hudson Yards, but it is going up in less than one-third the time and is almost entirely designed by a single architecture firm—Safdie Architects—with P&T Group International Ltd. serving as architect of record. Safdie’s own portfolio of recent work shows that while New York occasionally will build an elevated billionaire citadel, Chongqing, Singapore, and other cities have tasked his office with erecting bold new structures designed for working people and the public at large, all without sacrificing design quality. 

 Safdie explained that one possible reason why American projects no longer lead the world in terms of size or scale might be due to a “lack of urban initiative,” the type of sustained and calculated political and managerial energy necessary for bringing to life the types of large-scale and lasting projects that have transformed other countries around the world in recent decades. 

It’s a sentiment echoed by Rem Koolhaas, who, when recently asked about the prevalence of NIMBYism in America, explained, “I think you can divide the world into one part that is eager to change and doesn’t have hesitations about things changing, and another part that is totally nervous about change and actually aspires to a kind of stability.” Koolhaas added, “As an architect, every one of your efforts is impacted by this. In the end, however, architecture is always controversial because it proposes to make things different than they are.”

 Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the realm of high-speed rail (HSR), where American decision makers across all levels of government have persisted in remaining tethered to auto-centric planning, condemning the nation to antiquated transportation for at least another generation. A recent article in The New York Times covering the ongoing debacle with California’s tragic HSR project, for example, brings this condition into sharp relief with the following line: “California’s High-Speed Rail Authority…was established 23 years ago. During that time China has built 16,000 miles of high-speed rail.”

 America has built none. But America’s last-place finish doesn’t end with rail or with deteriorating airports; it includes city-building, too, as Safdie pointed out. Much of America is suffering from some form of housing crisis, whether it’s so-called Rust Belt cities struggling to retain residents or coastal cities that can’t figure out how and where to build new housing fast enough. While American cities have doubled-down on onerous building restrictions and lengthy bureaucratic reviews, politically polarized state and federal governments have worked at cross purposes, too, failing to enact bold plans and avoiding future-oriented thinking at almost all costs. The overarching legacy of redlining, racial segregation, and income inequality has placed a stranglehold over American cities, as well, contributing to intense gentrification when development does occur and debilitating displacement when it doesn’t. Over the last decade, it has become clear that America's public health, land-use, and transportation policies are all woefully out of whack, and the result is stifling the abilities of a generation of well-trained architects and engineers eager to build a better nation. Meanwhile, the world’s urbanizing areas have embraced building vertically, have expanded transit of all sorts, and have worked to enact bold planning initiatives that over a generation have remade the face of global urbanism in the name of interconnectedness, density, and place-making.

 In Europe, for example, France is currently enacting its “Le Grand Paris” plan, a vision that will stitch together the Paris city center with its inner and outer ring suburbs to bring together an urban region of 10 million inhabitants. The plan includes a €30 billion public transit expansion initiative that will create a network of regional transit routes connecting suburbs with one another as well as sizable new investments in social housing, parks, and other equity-minded initiatives.

 But it’s not just Europe. 

 Cairo, Egypt, is building a new $45 billion capital city that, when completed, will become the largest purpose-built capital city by population in the world.

 In India, the country’s largest infrastructure project, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, aims to connect the nation’s political and economic capitals with a 900-mile long conurbation made up of 24 urban “nodes.” The plan aims to urbanize 14 percent of India’s population—180 million people—over the next 30 years and will take $100 billion in investment to realize.

 In South America, Argentina’s so-called Belgrano Plan will bring $16 billion in rail expansion to 10 of the country’s neglected northern provinces and will create up to 250,000 new housing units and 1,100 childhood education centers. 

 Saudi Arabia is building new mega cities from scratch, as are China, Singapore, Nigeria, Mauritius, and countless others. 

 None of these projects are perfect socially or environmentally-speaking, to be sure, but one thing they do not lack is vision.

 If it feels like the most impressive work is taking place in other countries, that’s because in many ways, it is, and international architects know perhaps better than anyone else the truth of that reality. Even more, the hesitation, hedging, and hand-wringing that accompanies talk of the current state of American infrastructure and urban vision indicate that the problem runs deeper than a mere lack of funding or risk-averse clients. 

Whether it’s California’s flailing HSR project, the nation’s intractable housing crises, or even, the sad, dispirited political discourse surrounding the Green New Deal—a potentially transformative plan that is barely supported by the party that conceived it—it is clear that America has a crisis of vision, a failure of political will, and perhaps most alarmingly, no real interest in solving its own problems. Look at the Salesforce Transit Center debacle in San Francisco, Elon Musk’s substandard and retrograde transit ideas in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the steady stream of failing bridges and tunnels across the country for further proof. Even Amazon’s HQ2 extravaganza, a year-long publicity stunt by the world’s richest company that wrung billions in incentives from some of the most desperate cities around the country, rightfully withered on the vine. What’s going on here?

 As Safdie quipped, “We were promised infrastructure!” But the truth is that it’s just not happening in America anymore.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bernard Tschumi Architects' Exploratorium Museum bulges with cones of perforated aluminum panels

facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
With an imposing set of towers rising from a tabula rasa-like setting, one could at first mistake Bernard Tschumi Architects (BTA)'s Tianjin Binhai Exploratorium as a contemporary take on medieval fortifications. Designed between 2013 and 2014, and completed in the fall of 2019, the museum houses artifacts from Tianjin's heavy industrial past and displays of large-scale contemporary technology. The formidable complex is clad in thousands of perforated copper-colored aluminum panels studded with oculi for interior lighting. The 355,200-square-foot museum is located on the former site of a sprawling industrial park; the towers of the design are intended by the firm to evoke the smokestacks that formerly blanketed that landscape, with the copper-like panels standing in for rusted pipes and machinery.
  • Facade Manufacturer Tianjin Huhui Andersen
  • Architects Bernard Tschumi Architects
  • Facade Installer Tianjin Huhui Andersen
  • Facade Consultants Inhabit Group
  • Location Tianjin, China
  • Date of Completion Fall 2019
  • System Perforated aluminum rainscreen over sealed aluminum surface
  • Products Custom-designed treated and perforated aluminum panels
In total, there are approximately 3,600 panels spread across the museum's four elevations. The panels come in two sizes along flat portions of the facade; approximately 4-feet-by-7-feet and 4-feet-by-11.5-feet. To clad the curved and tapered cones of the museum, the design team developed 52 different sizes of panels with each row of the cones corresponding to a unique width. At the intersections between cones and flat surfaces, as well as the oculi and panels, the team generated over 200 special cuts. The large size of the panels called for a significant degree of reinforcement, with each panel backed by two aluminum U-channels located between the perforations. "The panels are bolted through the one-inch vertical joints to a substructure made of vertical seven-inch by three-inch steel tubes," said BTA co-director, Joel Rutten. "The actual enclosure of the building is made of a sealed aluminum surface in front of the thermal insulation. The vertical steel substructure is anchored to the building from slab to slab through the aluminum/insulation enclosure." The pattern of each cluster of perforations corresponds to an 8-by-8-inch grid; the perforations come in three different diameters, their placement generated by a digital script. Additionally, there is a three-color gradient for the aluminum panels, which was also generated by a custom script. In terms of environmental performance, the oculi-studded cones flood gallery spaces and the principal vertical circulation routes with natural light. As a result of their tapered outline, the towers also effectively collect warm air which is easily ventilated outward at their summits. Additionally, the bulk of the museum's structural components are placed within the cones, minimizing the number of columns within gallery spaces. The project is one of five major attractions within Tianjin's Binhai Cultural Center, which also includes MVRDV's Tianjin Binhai Library.

LECTURE: OPEN Questions: Li Hu and Huang Wenjing

The ever-changing realities of contemporary urban life, and the challenges they pose for humanity and the environment, call for an urgent rethinking of architectural precedent. To create spaces suited to the kind of architectural complexity and urbanity present in cities today, particularly those in China, architecture must explore and embrace new opportunities for spatial reinvention.

Architects Li Hu and Huang Wenjing, founding partners of OPEN Architecture, will share with the audience observations drawn from more than a decade of architectural practice in Beijing. Through a series of questions—the starting points for some of OPEN’s latest projects on culture and education—Li and Huang will present their thoughts on how architecture can offer hope for the future by reacting to the challenges of today.

  RSVP online at http://cc.syr.edu/robbins19
Placeholder Alt Text

World's longest 3-D-printed concrete bridge opens in Shanghai

Printing concrete has long been looked to as a way to speed up construction times and cut waste, and more and more projects are being 3-D printed, from barracks to outdoor furniture. Now, the world’s largest 3-D-printed concrete pedestrian bridge has been completed in Shanghai, China, across the city’s Wisdom Bay pond. The 86-foot-long, 12-foot-wide bridge was designed and fabricated by a team from Tsinghua University School of Architecture's Zoina Land Joint Research Center for Digital Architecture (JCDA) led by professor Xu Weiguo. The curvaceous bridge, which mimics billowing fabric for the railings and uses pavers patterned after brain coral for the pedestrian portion, was inspired by the Anji Bridge in Zhaoxian, China. The bridge’s construction was a joint effort with the Shanghai Wisdom Bay Investment Management Company. This isn't the first time that a bridge has been robotically fabricated; see the stainless-steel bridge produced by MX3D for a canal in Amsterdam. However, this concrete bridge is more than twice the length of its steel counterpart. The bridge structure is composed of 44 separate hollow units, while the handrails were pieced together from 68 hollow blocks, all of them printed from a proprietary polyethylene fiber concrete mix meant to ensure a steady rate of flow while printing. First, a one-quarter-scale model of the bridge was printed to test the structure’s integrity. Then, over the course of 450 hours, two robotic arms printed the components for the full-size bridge. Vibration and strain-monitoring sensors have been embedded throughout the structure to track the bridge’s stability in real time and allow researchers to pinpoint where the greatest amount of stress is occurring.
Placeholder Alt Text

David Chipperfield finishes hillside museum in eastern China

David Chipperfield Architects has recently finished a new museum in Anji outside Dipuzhen in eastern China that comprises a set of interlinked bars in a "red ochre" color that references local clay earth. The facility will be a branch of the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History when it opens this spring. The museum's rectangular galleries step down its hillside site and are connected by a loggia that encloses an interior courtyard. The galleries have roughly the same grand height and width but vary in length, bringing some diversity to the exhibition spaces. Altogether, the museum will enclose about 624,000 square feet. When fully landscaped, the complex will include green roofs and water features that, along with the ruddy color, will connect the building to its subtropical setting. German firm Levin Monsigny Landschaftsarchitekten and local firm Zhejiang South Architecture Design Ltd. worked on the landscape design.
Placeholder Alt Text

Thousands of terra-cotta louvers shade the Fuzhou Strait Culture and Art Centre

facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
Five years ago, Fuzhou hosted an international competition for a new cultural center to affirm the city's as a premier destination along the Strait of Taiwan and the East China Sea. Opened in October 2018. The Strait Culture and Art Centre is a five-pronged complex on the banks of the Minjiang River designed by Helsinki and Shanghai–based PES-Architects. The complex is clad in terra-cotta louvers over a yawning glass curtain wall made of trapezoidal panels. According to the architects, the design of the Strait Culture and Art Centre intends to provoke a dialogue with the residents of Fuzhou and Fujian province as a whole. Every city in China has its own distinctive flower: Shanghai has its magnolia, Guangzhou the Bombax ceiba, and Fuzhou the jasmine white. The five wings of the center, clad in LOPO China and Zhonglei-produced terra-cotta glazed brilliantly white, function as conjoined "petals" of a gargantuan 1.6-million-square-foot flower.
  • Facade Manufacturer LOPO China              China State Construction Company (CSCEC)              Zhonglei              Shanghai Haojing Glass Products Co. 
  • Architects PES-Architects
  • Facade Installer Jiang He Curtain Wall Co. CSCEC
  • Facade Consultants Schmidlin Facade
  • Location Fuzhou, China
  • Date of Completion October 2018
  • System Terra-cotta screen mounted atop diagonal steel tubes with custom-designed clips
  • Products LOPO Terra-cotta plates Zhonglei terra-cotta baguettes            Custom-designed clips by Guangdong Jianlong Hardware Products Co 
The Strait Culture and Art Centre’s facade is composed of roughly 42,250 repetitive terra-cotta baguette louvers, measuring nearly six feet in length and nine inches in depth. The position of the louvers was determined through methodical evaluation by sunlight simulation scripts; solar radiation analysis revealed the optimal vertical spacing between baguettes to be 11 inches with an upward tilt of 45 degrees. The density of the louvers across sections of the curved elevations was determined by interior shading and visibility requirements—sections facing northwest bear significant breaks in the primary skin. To fasten the system of terra-cotta baguettes to the structural steel columns of each wing, PES-Architects collaborated closely with consultant Schmidlin Facade to custom-design clips for the sunscreen. According to project architect Martin Lukasczyk, the greatest difficulty of the clip design “was to develop a system to allow for tolerance in multiple directions, to cope with structural inaccuracies on site, and to ensure an even spacing and continuous pattern of the louvers.” While PES-Architects repeated digital simulations of the design and performance of the building, the scope of the project and the challenges of construction in China related to potentially poor-quality installation due to rapid-paced construction time demanded further testing. Lukasczyk went on to note that "it took several rounds of reviewing 1:1 mock-up models before the final product of the ceramic louvers, and the final detailing" could be accepted by the design team. The end of each baguette is outfitted with an aluminum plate adhered with a neoprene layer and shaped to match its profile. Each clip consists of an aluminum "hand" bolted to the ceramic louvers, and an "arm" tying them back to the secondary structural system of double-curved pipes. Bar the custom-designed clips, a similar fastening system is repeated between the primary and secondary structural systems; rows of arms, which are adjustable to compensate for installation tolerances, protrude from the main steel columns towards the curved pipes. Seeing as the bulk of interior space of the complex is dedicated to performance or entertainment, significant portions of the facade design did not demand the same level of visibility requirements. For these portions, Zhonglei produced approximately 2.5-feet-by-1.5-feet terra-cotta panels with the same brilliant glazing as the louvers. Following the lens-shaped contours of the buildings, growing gaps naturally occurred between terra-cotta panels moving towards the structures' apex. To remedy this issue, PES-Architects placed flexible aluminum profiles along the borders of the terra-cotta tiles that thicken to address the growing width of gaps.
Placeholder Alt Text

OPEN Architecture completes a cave-like museum buried in China's Gold Coast

New York City and Beijing–based OPEN Architecture recently completed a cave-like museum that’s carved into a sand dune along China’s Gold Coast. The UCCA Dune Art Museum is a 10,000-square-foot facility featuring 10 galleries, studios, and a cafe tucked inside an all-white, unassuming structure beside the sea. According to the architects, the museum’s hidden form was inspired by the way in which children dig into the sand. It takes visitors beneath the mass of loose land and allows them to enter into a series of otherworldly, cell-like spaces below ground. After walking through a dark tunnel and small reception area, museum-goers are exposed to the largest multifunctional gallery. This procession, along with its secluded location, creates a more personal experience for viewing contemporary art. “Its interconnected, organically shaped spaces echo those of caves…whose walls were once home to some of man’s first works of art," the firm told Archinect. The largely-underground building includes a massive concrete shell that was formed by small linear wood strips and other structural materials. A multitude of overhead openings and skylights of varying sizes allow natural light to seep into the gallery spaces. Perched by the shore, the roof is covered in sand to reduce the building’s overall heat load. It also includes a low-energy, zero-emission ground source heat pump that cools the structure during the day. Visitors can ascend a spiral staircase from the galleries up onto a viewing platform to take in the surrounding views and fresh air. The entire space is engineered to be contemplative, urging art lovers to consider the museum’s context as part of the art itself. The UCCA Dune Art Museum is part of the Ullen Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, a leading international institution. OPEN Architecture aims to design a walkway that extends from the Dune Art Museum into the Bohai Sea. When the tide is low, it will lead visitors to the solitary Sea Art Museum, a boxy, open-air structure built like a rock. That project is currently under construction.
Placeholder Alt Text

Sasaki wins competition to plan a capital city for pandas

International design firm Sasaki has been selected to develop a master plan for the Chengdu Panda Capital. Chengdu is also the human capital of China’s Sichuan province, one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country, and the only native habitat of the giant panda. The city government recognizes its responsibility as steward of this vulnerable species and, in June of last year, called for submissions to expand its panda research and tourism facilities. Sasaki beat out 98 other contenders with a plan that balances smart urbanism and thoughtful conservation. The masterplan is spread across three sites, each playing a different role in the panda conservation effort. Longquanshan Panda Village, located near the airport, will be focused on education. Visitors there will be introduced to the region’s history, culture, and dedication to conservation. Panda Park, in Beihu, is the closest to downtown Chengdu and reachable by mass transit. Here, panda tourists will learn more about the panda and its habitat at a new visitor center. The primary research center and gateway to the giant panda preserve is outside the city in Dujiangyan Panda Valley, where conservators breed and prepare pandas to enter the wild. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of the greatest threats to the giant panda is the tourism and recreation areas, and large-scale infrastructure projects. Tourism, if not properly managed, is a particular concern for the expanded capital, which is anticipated to receive 20 million annual visitors— that’s about two million more people per year than Disneyland. This plan involves all those threats, and Sasaki is embracing the challenge. “How do you reconcile human land use and wildlife protection?” asked Sasaki principal Tao Zhang. “With this project, we’re aiming to set a new baseline for how cities can achieve a sustainable model that generates win-wins…through extensive educational and environmental stewardship programs and a fully-integrated design approach.” The new master plan will help ensure that the city will grow in a sustainable manner while reaffirming its brand as the panda capital of the world and securing a shared future for both of the area’s major species.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Shui Cultural Center connects to traditional life through copper and concrete

facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
Opened to the public in December 2017, West-Line Studio’s Shui Cultural Center is an imposing complex located in a valley within China’s rugged Sandu Shui Autonomous County. The complex, consisting of three single-gabled halls and a monumental tower, is a formidable display of timber-pressed concrete covered in pitched copper plates.
  • Facade Manufacturer Changsha Di Kai Construction Engineering Co., Chongqing Zhongbo Energy Conservation Glass Co.
  • Architects West-Line Studio. Lead Architects—Haobo Wei, Jingsong Xie. Architecture and Landscape Design–Hanmin Dan, Yudan Luo. Interior Design–Martina Muratori
  • Facade Installer Changsha Di Kai Construction Engineering Co., Ltd
  • Facade Consultants Changsha Di Kai Construction Engineering Co., Ltd
  • Location Sandu County, Guizhou, China
  • Date of Completion December 2017
  • System Concrete system clad in copper panels and glass
  • Products Custom made double-sided copper plates, and glass
The Shui people, concentrated in the county and the larger Guizhou province, are a distinct ethnic minority with a unique language and logographic writing system. For West-Line Studio, the project was an ambitious attempt to translate local customs into a cohesive design for a cultural center campus nearing 150,000 square feet. Placed atop an expansive concrete podium, the halls are of varying size, height, and function. They are unified by relatively hidden wall openings and approximately 4,000 perforated copper cladding panels. Each half-inch-thick panel, measuring four by two feet, was subjected to a multi-stepped anodizing process to overcome corrosion in the acid rain–drenched province and to boost iridescence. The perforations, numbering just under 50,000 in total, fulfill three functions. Structurally, gaps in the copper plate significantly reduce the dead load placed on cantilevered concrete trusses and the screen wall fastening system, composed of galvanized steel corners, sheets, and expansion-and-burst bolts. Aesthetically, the perforations create a patterned brise-soleil for the halls’ east and west elevations, filtering light through the narrow, rectangular glass panes that line the hall. Symbolically, the gaps are a nod to the Shui character for rain, which consists of tiered vertical bands. The interiors of the complex, marked by exposed concrete structural systems, are imprinted by the surrounding landscape through the use of pine panel-formed concrete. Sandu, relatively isolated from the country’s principal economic centers, is known for its dense Huashan pine and Chinese fir forests. The concrete detail effectively softens what could be considered an ominous space, transforming them into grey, oversized versions of the region’s traditional timber vernacular forms. The triple-glazed glass panels, produced 350 miles north in the megalopolis of Chongqing, largely insulate and guard the complex from the elements. However, West-Line Studio inserted two details that add color and symbolic depth to the cultural center. In the complex's ritual hall, glass panels are dyed to resemble typical batik tapestry patterns, blanketing the concrete walls and flooring with ever-changing color. Additionally, box-like concrete appendages marked with traditional Shui logographic characters protrude from this same hall. With a glance of sunlight, the characters are beamed downward, further tying the symbolic and material. Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the cladding panels as being made of bronze rather than copper.