Chinese real estate developers Wanda Commercial Properties announced Wednesday plans to build an 89-story mixed-use tower in Chicago’s Lakeshore East neighborhood that would unseat Aon Center as the city’s third tallest building. At approximately 1,150 feet tall, the tower at 375 E. Wacker Dr. would be among the tallest buildings in Chicago. AN reached out to Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office to confirm the announcement, which was reported in the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Architecture Blog Tuesday, but so far our calls have not been returned. A spokesman for Lakeshore East developer Magellan Properties declined to comment. Chinese news agency Sina reported the building will house a five-star hotel and apartments, and is expected to open in 2018. Along with a retail component, that should total 1.4 million square feet of space, according to Chicago Architecture Blog. The designer is still unspecified, but a rendering from Wanda Group shows three staggered volumes constructed from stacked frustums, or cut-off pyramid shapes. If built, it would occupy the lot adjacent to the new GEMS World Academy building, designed by bKL Architecture. The Beijing-based company, commonly called Wanda Group, is known in the U.S. for buying cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings, and has amassed dozens of hotels and department stores in China. The $900 million Chicago project would be the first step in what Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin said will be a big move into U.S. real estate. "Investing in Chicago property is just Wanda's first move into the U.S. real estate market," Jianlin said in a statement, "Within a year, Wanda will invest in more five-star hotel projects in major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. By 2020, Wanda will have Wanda branded five-star hotels in 12–15 major world cities and build an internationally influential Chinese luxury hotel brand." We’ll update this post as more information becomes available.
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UNStudio has completed a sprawling, flower-like campus for the 2014 Horticulture Exhibit in Qingdao, China. The Theme Pavilion consists of four metallic structures that stretch out over 300,000-square-feet and resemble a Chinese rose from above. And at the human scale, the metallic, undulating structures interact with their mountainous surroundings. The Pavilion includes a media center, conference and performance space, and an exhibition hall that collectively anchor the Horticultural Exhibit, which runs through October. "The architecture of the Theme Pavilion further responds to the dominant skyline of the mountains surrounding the Masterplan by means of carefully composed roofscapes on the individual buildings,” explained UNStudio in a statement. “These roofs are envisioned as elevated landscaped plateaus, each addressing a different portion of the Masterplan with its inclination and terracing, providing panoramic views which extend far into the surrounding landscape." After the exhibition wraps up in the fall, the space will transition into a hotel, conference center, and public space.
Nearly two years after preliminary discussions and planning, the Chinese studio MAD has set their project “Urban Forest” into motion, breaking ground in late April. Led by renowned architect Ma Yansong, MAD architects intends to transform the city of Beijing, China by erecting eco-friendly buildings—called Chaoyang Park Plaza—in the shape of natural landscapes commonly found in Southeast Asia. All renderings courtesy MAD. According to the architects, "Like the tall mountain cliffs and river landscapes of China, a pair of asymmetrical towers creates a dramatic skyline in front of the park. Ridges and valleys define the shape of the exterior glass facade, as if the natural forces of erosion wore down the tower into a few thin lines." The Chaoyang Park Plaza, in Beijing's central business district, hopes to re-imagine the urban landscape of Beijing by bringing the striking forms of the towers together with lush landscapes pulled in from the adjacent Chaoyang Park. The development is expecting to received a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council when the project is completed in 2016.
Blair Kamin convened a panel of designers at the Chicago Architecture Foundation last Wednesday for a discussion around themes explored in his recent series “Designed in Chicago, Made in China,” in which the Chicago Tribune architecture critic assessed the effects of that country’s rapid development on urbanism and design. “It’s often said that architecture is the inescapable art,” Kamin said to lead off the talk. “If that’s true then China’s urbanization is the inescapable story.” Joining Kamin were Jonathan D. Solomon, associate dean at the School of Architecture at Syracuse University; Thomas Hussey of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will; and Silas Chiow, SOM’s China director. The event was part of the Tribune's "Press Pass" series. If you haven’t read Kamin's series, you should. It examined contemporary Chinese cities and some U.S. designers thereof, giving special attention to trends in three categories: work, live, and play. Photographer John J. Kim illustrated with visuals. “In regards to street life and public space,” said SOM’s Hussey, “there can be a lack of an attitude towards it.” Long Chinese “megablocks” in Shanghai’s soaring Pudong district facilitate an urbanism not on the street, which few Americans would find walkable, but it has given rise to a kind of vertical urbanism within mixed-use towers and urban malls. Hussey pointed to SOM’s plan for a new financial district in the port area of Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city, which seeks to restore the street life present in Chinese cities before rapid modern development. And while Chinese cities are growing up, they’re also growing out. Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will reminded the audience that in the absence of property taxes, Chinese municipalities make money for new development by selling off land. That creates a ripple effect of rising property values and a pressure to sell that is devouring arable farmland. That trend’s not likely to slow down, said SOM’s Silas Chiow, since part of China’s national strategy to turn the largely manufacturing nation into a consumer country is to continue its rapid urbanization. That pressure helped produce China’s enviable mass transit systems and light rail connectivity, but also a homogeneity of design that some have called dehumanizing. Height limits, uniform standards for south-facing units and other design requirements that by themselves improve standard of living can breed sprawling, cookie-cutter developments that are easy to get lost in. Still, housing projects in China don’t carry the social stigma that they do in the U.S., commented a few panel members, in part because they’ve brought modern amenities to so many. Where China’s urbanization goes from here, however, is an open question. Images of smog-choked skylines remind some of Chicago in 1900, but the situation is not a perfect analogue. For one, the problem of carbon pollution is far more urgent now than it was then, and its sources far more potent. “Will China be the death of the urban world,” asked Kamin at the panel’s close, “or its savior?”
Zaha Hadid has designed another seemingly-structurally-impossible parametric building form that is set to touch down in Macau in 2017. The building, which could be equally at home in Miami or Dubai, is a large block that has been punctured by three curvaceous openings. The entire mass is encased in an exposed exoskeleton that twists and turns along the structure's contours. The project was undertaken at the behest of Melco Crown Entertainment, casino magnates who have contributed the City of Dreams resort to the gambling-soaked Chinese island. The developers commissioned Hadid to create the fifth hotel located on the property, which will top out at 40 stories and house 780 rooms in over 1.6 million square feet of space. Other expected amenities include luxury retail, specialty restaurants, spa facilities, a roof-top pool, and a number of gaming areas. The external latticework varies in patterning as it crawls up the structure's facade. It is densest at its middle, where it navigates the irregularities of the design's central void, and becomes more elongated at each of the building's poles. The interior is more angular, awash in crystalline glass outcroppings subdivided by triangular grids. These walls collide with the curved base of the structure's opening to create a 130-foot central atrium that welcomes arriving visitors to the hotel. Construction for the newest member of the City of Dreams is already underway.
Dutch firm MVRDV is creating a new office building in Hong Kong, and by the looks of the renderings, people will be really happy to work there. The project actually entails the transformation of the Cheung Fai Warehouse, a 14-story industrial building that currently sits on a busy corner in the city's designated business area of East Kowloon. MVRDV will be stripping the structure to its concrete infrastructural core before filling the frame with glass and stainless steel in order to define the new office spaces. Glass dominates the exterior as well, as large sheets are inserted into the white concrete frame of the structure. The largely clear facade is punctuated by small explosions of greenery, which spills out of select rectangular sections. The rooftop has been set aside for a terrace meant to serve as a communal gathering space. The glass spills over into the interior, bringing with it large amounts of light and also meaning that the building's concrete skeleton is readily visible throughout the offices and circulation areas. The Cheung Fai building is MVRDV's first foray into Hong Kong. In addition to 37 office units, the structure is also slated to house retail space and restaurants. At its rear the site faces a disused service alley that the firm hopes to one day convert into usable public space in keeping with the development of the surrounding area. The transformation is scheduled to be completed by 2015.
A Shanghai building company has erected a small village of pitched-roof, 3-D printed structures—in about a day. WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co is behind the series of humble buildings, a fully fabricated unit is expected to cost less than $5,000. The homes were created through the use of a 490- by 33- by 20-foot 3-D printer that fabricates the basic components required for assembly. Rather than plastic, the machine behind these structures spits out layer upon layer of concrete made in part from recycled construction waste, industrial waste, and tailings. WinSun intends to construct 100 factories that will harness such waste in order to generate their affordable "ink," which is also reinforced with glass fibers. Purists will note that the WinSun productions are not 3-D printed structures in the traditional sense. Rather than projects like these, or the contour crafting processes championed by USC Professor Berokh Khoshnev, the Shanghai homes are not printed on site layer by layer. Instead they are composites of 3-D printed parts that require human intervention in order to be assembled into something resembling a house. WinSun estimates that their methods can cut construction costs in half and sees the potential for "affordable and dignified housing" for the impoverished.
Pier Carlo Bontempi and Ruan Yisan accept Driehaus awards for classicist architecture and preservation
Italian architect Pier Carlo Bontempi and Chinese preservationist Ruan Yisan last weekend received the highest honors in the world of classicist design—a school of though that AN previously examined alongside the more widely known Pritzker Prize. The 2014 Richard H. Driehaus Prize went to Bontempi, an architect from Parma, Italy whose work includes a block recovery plan for that city’s historic center, as well as the Place de Toscane and the “Quartier du Lac” resort in Val d’Europe near Paris. In a WTTW documentary made for the occasion of the award, Bontempi likened traditional and classical design to well-made salami and other local delicacies—modernists, Bontempi said, cut through the whole sausage, while those with an eye to the past are more careful in their preparation. He told the crowd gathered at the award ceremony Saturday in Chicago that he considered it a great compliment when a Dutch couple confused one of his buildings with a string of historic structures along the road to Rome, wondering why it wasn’t included in their guide. Administered since 2003 by the school of architecture at the University of Notre Dame, the $200,000 Driehaus Prize “is awarded to a living architect whose work embodies the highest ideals of traditional and classical architecture in contemporary society, and creates a positive cultural, environmental, and artistic impact,” according to its website. Ruan Yisan received the $50,000 Henry Hope Reed Prize, which is “given to an individual working outside the practice of architecture who has supported the cultivation of the traditional city, its architecture and art through writing, planning or promotion.” Yisan, a historic preservationist and professor of architecture at Shanghai’s Tongji University, has helped catalogue and preserve numerous cities and cultural sites around China. He supervised the Yangtze River Water Towns preservation project, and won protection for the Pingjiang Historic District in his native Suzhou—both sites have since landed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. The professor, who turns 80 this year, told the award audience Saturday that the American remittance of funds paid after China's 1900 Boxer Rebellion helped educate a generation of architects and designers who would sustain the nation’s architectural preservation movement through the 20th century. “It’s good karma,” he said through a translator. (Somewhat ironically, American designers and universities are also helping reshape contemporary China in a fashion decidedly more modern than that honored by the Driehaus Awards.)
One of our favorite duos, Oyler Wu, recently completed its biggest installation to date: The Cube, a twisting, glowing steel and wire concoction for the 2013 Beijing Biennale. The dramatic project is now touring China, but when pressed for the latest news the firm admitted that it is not sure where it is. So if you spot a giant cube somewhere in the country, please give them a ring, will you?
Construction has recently been completed on UNStudio's Hanjie Wanda Square, a new luxury shopping center in Wuhan, China. The firm boldly coated the exterior of the building in over 42,333 metallic spheres, bestowing a fluidity to the facade that extends into the interior of the structure. There, curved walkways and corridors flow together in order to carry shoppers throughout the upscale retail stores, catering outlets, and movie theaters within the center. North and South atria anchor the inside of the building, the former bedecked in gold and bronze tones, while silver and reflective materials pervade the latter. These elements are purported to speak to a "cultural traditional identity" and "city identity and urban rhythm" respectively. Each opening is capped by a large skylight. Each steel ball-bearing houses an LED light that projects multiple colors onto a laminated glass surface that cloaks the building. The facade thus acts as a canvas for the numerous effects generated by the combination of colored light and pattern. Such dynamism echoes the the approach adopted by UNStudio in other projects the firm has undertaken in Korea, Taiwan, and Bejing. Wanda Square will soon be joined by other UNStudio projects cropping up throughout China. While the firm initially established a Shanghai location in order to aid in the development of its Raffles City Development in Hangzhou, the once temporary branch has been transformed into a fully operational extension of the Amsterdam-based office. The completion of the mall comes in the wake of recent competition wins for the pavilion for the 2014 Horticultural World Expo in Qingdao and a large-scale multi-use development in Bejing within the coming years.
The design team at MODU, in collaboration with Ho-Yan Cheung of Arup, have created an urban public space for the 5th China International Architecture Biennial. Their design pays homage to Beijing's iconic Olympic Park, while drawing attention to environmental issues in the country’s densely populated capital. The biennial committee has also commissioned designs from leading international architects such as Wang Shu, Zaha Hadid, and Mohsen Mostafavi. The dual-purpose structure not only creates a unique civic space, but also acts as a barometer for the air quality in Beijing. This “room in the city” concept does not attempt to separate people from polluted outdoor air and filtered indoor air by means of physical boundaries. Instead, the structure highlights the air pollution issue through the use of punctured openings in the walls and ceiling panels, as well as a large elliptical roof which frames the Olympic Observation Tower. On clear days, the tower can be seen perfectly through the roof frame, but on days when the pollution creates a dense grey fog, the landmark virtually disappears from sight. The outdoor room is made from recycled materials and, according to its designers, represents a new era of socially responsive design. At the end of November, the structure will be installed in six other cities in China.
One World Trade may officially be the tallest building in the West, but according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the honor of the Best Tall Building in the World goes to OMA’s CCTV Headquarters in Beijing–a fitting birthday gift to the architect who previously declared war on the skyscraper (Happy 69th Rem!). Back in July, the CTBUH revealed its four regional finalists for the annual Best Tall Buildings competition, which included Foster + Partners’ The Bow (Calgary, Canada) for the Americas, Renzo Piano’s The Shard (London) for Europe, and Goettsch Partners Sowwah Square complex (Abu Dhabi) for the Middle East and Africa. The CCTV building was chosen as the worldwide champ after senior representatives from each of the winning firms presented their projects to a jury at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago on November 7. The CTBUH praised Rem Koolhaas’ iconic building for challenging the definition and typology of the skyscraper with its groundbreaking form, pushing the limits of possibility with its cutting-edge structural engineering, and serving as a catalyst for the recent transformation of skyscrapers from the high-reaching towers of old to the dynamic urban centerpieces that are rising across the world today. In usual Koolhaas form, the architect accepted his award by expressing his distaste for traditional tall buildings. “When I published my last book, Content, in 2003, one chapter was called 'Kill the Skyscraper,'" Koolhaas said at the ceremony. “Basically it was an expression of disappointment at the way skyscraper typology was used and applied. I didn’t think there was a lot of creative life left in skyscrapers. Therefore, I tried to launch a campaign against the skyscraper in its more uninspired form.” “The fact that I am standing on this stage now, in this position, meant that my declaration of war went completely unnoted, and that my campaign was unsuccessful,” Koolhaas continued jokingly before concluding. “Being here, its is quite moving—to be part of a community that is trying to make skyscrapers more interesting. I am deeply grateful, and thank all my partners.”