During modernization, education in China breaks away from the obsolete test-oriented mentality and gradually embraces the comprehensive learning instead. University, as the pioneer in school system and in society, is urged to invent a new learning model to revolutionize the framework in education. Although being an engineering school, Beijing Institute of Technology has a legacy of integrating science and humanity and contextualizing them in a larger social context. The recent pedagogy of the school consciously counter-balances its heavy loaded polytechnic studies with art and sports.
Sited in Liangxiang, the satellite city of Beijing, the BIT Sports Center, along with the BIT Stadium, frame an entrance to the extended exurb BIT campus. The project responses to the horizontality embedded in the site: with the panoramic landscape of Yan-Shan mountain chain as the background, the post-modern campus as the midground, and the ambitious urban parks as the foreground. The project bases its tectonic on “amplitude” and “trajectory projection”—the major study areas of BIT—to stretch its formal expression on a flat site, allowing the free flow of people and thought beneath it. Besides, the parametric expression of the project also addresses the historic context of Beijing by reinstating the greyish monolithic tone in the materiality of Hutong and Great-wall. The undulating roof of the project recreates the curve ground of the Great-wall with modern construction. The project’s austere metallic architecture statement, along with its parametric syntax, express the science and technological aesthetics that BIT is striving for.
The severe long winter in Beijing calls for 15,692 sqm of indoor athlete space to be add to the new campus by the sports center. The project encompasses a 3000-seats basketball hall, a 10-lanes swimming pool, and spaces for martial art, taekwondo, table tennis, etc. As building form is kept simple and compact for the climate, the challenge lies in revolutionizing big-box typology from within: the humanistic landscape is created through crafting the programmatic and spatial complexity of the interior rather than the exterior.
With Mies’ “Universal Space” and Cedric Price’s “Fun Palace” in mind, the project creates an open field of porous campus that encourages visual and physical access to abundant activities. The transparency in space inspires trans-disciplinary dialogues among students. The project’s spatial porosity engages creativity, criticality, and collaboration. New social space typology is invented, as communication occurs in a more fluid and spontaneous way, and people are joint together through inspirations and active participations. Communal space with various scales and flexible spatial definitions are thus created for new forms of networking, gathering and group activities. The architecture offers a new education model: active learning from being inspired in a stimulating open field.
Space is permeable in both urban and architecture scales, through plan and section. In plan, an entrance promenade, sandwiched between swimming pool and basketball hall, connects north and south campuses. As the glass enclosing basketball hall at the south east corner merges with street life and the BIT stadium, the urban context of intersection is redefined with vitality and inclusiveness. The compressed and continuous human scale aperture at the swimming pool links the sports center to the central campus square. In section, as program interfaces are designed to be transparent, vertical permeability is achieved by nesting programs with one another. Programs behind swimming pool—taekwondo, table tennis and testing center—at second, third and fourth floors, all have different apertures into the swimming pool and share its skylight as supplemental light source. While the basketball hall seating is elevated, the ground plate becomes flexible, and programs on the ground are interconnected and join seamlessly into the campus life. The third-floor platforms are placed in strategic spots that overlook the basketball hall, the entrance promenade, the swimming pool, and the campus beyond.
To response to BIT’s call for unity between art and science, the project attempts to reiterate Leonardo da Vinci’s interdisciplinary dialogue on science, architecture, and art. Da Vinci’s drawing of the “Flying Machine” was the initial inspiration for the project. The project attempts to build a floating “Flying Machine” with “trajectory parabola” derived from Polytechnique studies. Three sets of “trajectory parabola,” drawn across sky, are loft to obtain three sets of double curvature surfaces; each set of curve surfaces forms a undulating volume to be the roof of the building; the discrepancies between the undulating volumes are sealed with glass wall to form the clerestories for the building. The undulating volumes is constructed in space-frame to accommodate the topological changes in section. Standing-seam roofing is used to cover the top of the space-frame while three dimensionally tessellated aluminum panels are used for the suspended ceiling beneath the space-frame.
Due to budgetary, scheduling and construction constrains, the parametric design encounters tremendous challenges during its execution. Locating in a strong wind zone, the huge cantilever of the project was challenged by the uplifting wind pressure. A wind tunnel test was done to understand the wind load and base the structure design upon. Besides, wind-resisting-clips were also used to secure the standing-seam panels on the roof. As rainwater runoff represented substantial problems for the convex part of the topological roof surface, as water collected there might cause flood and leakage. The design doubled catch basins in the convex gutter and enlarged drainage pipe size accordingly. We collaborated with structural engineers to optimize structure design: by reshaping the roof curvature, we reduced structure steel usage tremendously.
Atelier Alter Architects is a cross-disciplinary practice based in New York and Beijing. Constantly redefining boundaries of architecture, the works of Atelier Alter strive for manifesting ideas of significance: ideas that offer critics rather than imitations.
Designing with social agendas, the practice focuses upon culture and civic works since the beginning. By transferring metaphysical context into spaces of historic remembrance, the practice completed projects of Qujing Culture Center, Senior Culture Center, and Yingliang Fossil Museum. Meanwhile, projects of BIT Sport Center, WuliEpoch Culture Center, Yingliang Stone Archive exploded the typological transformation of social and culture spaces. Noted for designing from critical analysis of the site, Atelier Alter Architects has been recognized by numerous awards, including AIA Design Award, German Design Award, BOY Award, AZ Award etc. Meanwhile, works from Atelier Alter Architects has been published and featured worldwide.