When OCT—one of China’s largest real estate and tourism companies—set out to create a second headquarters building, they selected Rocco Design Associates to design a mixed-use complex that would be both a base for company operations and a tourist destination in its own right. The complex is located in Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province, where mild climates, millennia-old historical sites, and sublime landscapes attract millions of regional and international visitors a year.
The project is one of the first of its scale in the city’s Chonggang District, a newly planned downtown center that—just years ago—was an undeveloped tract of land. Responding to this unique context, RDA conceived the building as a vertical neighborhood that interweaves different uses into a hub of activity for the district. The design reinforces this approach, using fluid and organic geometries rather than rigidly urban ones, merging program and architectural expression into a new icon for Chonggang.
The mixed-use program includes contemporary apartments, double-height loft residences, an experiential hotel, headquarters offices for OCT, and public spaces like a floating exhibition hall and a sky lounge. These programs are split between two towers that stand side-by-side, flanking a central void. This massing breaks up the building's footprint to create a human-scaled street presence, maintains crucial view corridors from surrounding buildings towards natural landmarks, enhances daylighting in the towers by maximizing exposure, and generates a chimney effect to bring natural ventilation to the upper reaches of the tower. Each zone has a dedicated circulation core and lobby, making for efficient movement through the building while maintaining its lively mix of uses.
The hotel and serviced apartments occupy the lower floors of the two towers, one program to each. The hotels face east while the apartments face west, giving them a sense of privacy from one another and unique views out over the surroundings. These programs are arrayed on the perimeters of the plans to maximize views and natural light. Circulation cores occupy the inward-facing edges, where they can be accessed through the central lobby zone between the towers.
The offices are on the higher floors, set on large floor plates that maximize flexibility to accommodate a range of operations. Topping the towers are public skylounges that offer commanding vistas over the city and nearby Dian lake, a large body of water that is one of Yunnan province's defining natural features.
Between the office zone and the residential/hotel zones are a series of floating public spaces cantilevered off the towers that offer signature amenities for residents, guests, and office workers alike. The spaces weave between the towers, lending the complex its distinctive H-shaped silhouette and creating a social core at the heart of the vertical neighborhood. These spaces include a soaring triple-height, fully glazed exhibition hall for lectures, symposia, and screenings; a club for special events and gatherings; a meeting and conference center for the offices; and hanging outdoor gardens suspended above the city.
The towers facades are gently faceted, articulating the distinct program areas and shaping the complex’s iconic presence on the skyline. The volumes bulge at the office floors to maximize usable square footage and narrow as they near the ground, softening its street presence to make for a welcoming pedestrian experience.
Where the east tower meets the ground, the mullions peel away from the building to form the roof of a horizontal volume housing the hotel lobby and a restaurant. The restaurant is lifted one level off the ground, allowing for an expansive plaza that makes for efficient guest drop off to the hotel while enhancing views from the restaurant over the surroundings. The base of the residential tower is defined by a low-slung glass-lined commercial space that projects into an adjacent park, anchoring its edge. These ground-floor programs create natural zones of activity around the building, integrating it into the surrounding urban fabric and contribute to a lively streetscape.
Sustainability and ecological integrations as driving principles of the design. The central void enhances natural ventilation throughout the entire complex, taking advantage of Kunming's mild climate. The hanging gardens bring outdoor access to the upper floors, incorporating nature as central to the experience of the building. The towers' facades are designed as green walls, supporting climbing plantings and creating a green presence on the skyline.
Rocco Design Architects (RDA) is a Chinese architectural practice based in Hong Kong. Working at the intersection of many customs, values, and physical landscapes, RDA embraces and reinterprets tradition to create places that are both contemporary and rooted in heritage. Understanding architecture as the art of problem-solving, the studio produces innovative formal concepts that resolve complex challenges and are marked by their clairity, sensitivity, and elegance.
Led by Principal Mr. Rocco Yim, RDA currently has five Directors and more than 140 staff with offices in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. RDA’s is regionally and internationally acclaimed, having won awards including: 1st Prize for the L’Opéra de la Bastille, 2 ARCASIA Gold Medals, 4 Chicago Athenaeum Architecture Awards, a Kenneth F. Brown Award, a WAF award, 4 German Design Council Awards, and 2 Lu Ban Awards. The firm has exhibited 4 times at Venice Biennale and held its first solo exhibition at the Berlin Aedes Gallery in 2015.
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