Commercial tower blocks and mixed-use developments are typically clustered to arise from a street-level podium. With built forms abutting the street, such architecture can appear intimidating.
A new development in Chengdu, China revisits the whole concept of a multi-tower, mixed-use development to create a sustainable, light-filled urban precinct that enhances the architectural interface with the city.
Raffles City Chengdu, commonly referred to as Sliced Porosity Block, was developed by CapitaLand China and designed by Steven Holl Architects. The 310,000m² development covers an entire city block, providing two office towers, a residential tower, a hotel tower, a high-end serviced residences tower and retail premises around the perimeter and beneath a large plaza.
But it is the position of the towers, their design and their relationship to one another, that heralds the key difference. The towers are wrapped around three sides of a landscaped precinct, with street level access at all points where there is a break in the built form.
Architect Roberto Bannura, the director of Steven Holl Architects' Beijing office, says there were six main concepts that determined the design.
"Porosity was one of these the idea that the buildings would be designed to allow sunlight to penetrate the architectural mass," Bannura says. "This explains the setbacks, cantilevers and angled facades. These were calculated after consideration of the site's precise longitude, latitude and sunlight angles, and the location of neighbouring residential communities. We introduced glazed walls to all these elevations, so you can read where the sun slices through the towers those are the glazed facades. The buildings are also distinguished by their exoskeletal structure the architectural geometry and load-bearing diagonals are clearly visible on the exterior of the towers."