The given site was a lush agrarian landscape filled with rice paddies with a clean and pristine Jiangnan vibe. During the initial site visit, our team was in great admiration of the place and realized the greatest constraint of the project was the beautiful site itself, or, the future disruption that would be caused by the construction. This realization was the driver of our concept to preserve the landscape as much as possible. We also realized that on a larger scale, the astronomical expansion of urban areas for major Chinese cities has caused a general loss of agrarian memory. Children growing up in the 21st century are largely immersed in urban and industrialized zones, unfamiliar with the air and water of nature, farmlands, and of their history.
By packing all the architectural programs within a linear bridge form with 110,000 square meter footprint, we had left out a large open area of 550,000 square meters allowing for natural preservation and public access. The bridge configuration also integrates the architecture with infrastructure, creating a throughway circulation above the agrarian landscape and also directly into the buildings. The elevated building allows for extensive views towards the preserved landscape and the sprawling urban fabric to the westm and the vast Dongqian Lake to the east. The building itself also becomes a focal point for the surrounding areas. Its unique presentation with large open landscape on both sides is itself an attraction.
The primary value this design has provided is land, by minimizing the building footprint. Barely any technical implementation can supplement the significantly inefficient use of land. In the Chinese context, due to the “farmland swap” policy, this strategy also creates the potential for the government to be financially more sustainable with future land sales. Another strategy is the compact integration of programs and infrastructure, this reduces redundancy, allows for a minimal building surface area for insulation. Timber structure is also used to promote renewable construction materials in the context of tight Chinese regulatory landscape.
The parti of the project is a simple gesture that deals with multitude of issues at the same time: the compactness deals with the explosive urban sprawl of modern China, the preservation of landscape directs at the loss of history and natural heritage due to fast pace demolition and construction, and the linear form with vaguely Chinese architectural elements refer to a modernist influence that the People’s Republic had a complicated relationship since its founding. Another significance worth noting is that despite the seemingly radical architectural configuration, we have tried our best to introduce specific places and details to the project referring to the historic Ningbo that we discovered through old photos from the 19th century. This contrast has made the project not just a radical modernist intervention, but also a section of history presented in the era of accelerating loss. The building itself is an actual bridge: the ground level is left open for landscape, water, flora and fauna to go through; the bridge itself also contains programs that serve the main programs of the upper floor; the top floor holds the main venues and hotel that require the optimal access and view. The open landscape is a great opportunity to create an on-site ecosystem that are sustainable both environmentally and financially.
Ningbo being a provincial city not having a significant portion of migrants, the population compared to the “first tier” cities are mainly locals. The feedbacks we receive from the locals in general reflect a sense of future-orienting optimism while still being able to pay respect to the city’s history and its heritage. It also creates a publicly accessible place for its citizens to appreciate the city’s famous Dongqian Lake at an appropriate elevation without being obstrusive.
Founded in 2002, Tanghua Architects is an award-winning architectural design practice based in Shenzhen.In 2012,Tanghua Architects was listed as one of the top 100 architecture design institutes in China by the Architectural Society of China.
Tang Hua is the Chief Architect of Shenzhen Tanghua Architects, a grade-1 registered architect in China, APEC architect,a RIBA Chartered Member,and many other titles.He is also a professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at Chongqing University since the 1980s.
During his prolific career as an architect,Tang Hua has designed nearly 500 projects with over 80 of them built,including Ningbo International Conference Center,Chengdu Tianfu International Conference Center,T.Y. Lin International China HQ,etc..
Tanghua has received a number of prestigious national and international design awards including the Gold Award of the Architectural Society of China Architecture Design Awards.