Saturday, September 4, 2010
Of steel and glass II - Shenzhen Vanke
They said no photo could register the entirety of Vanke Center. I think that's OK. A building of that scale is not meant to be experienced all at once. It's a meandering urban-like experience, and there should be variations and points of reference. On top of an overall big gesture, the design actually emphasizes the localized situations with arms enclosing or opening up spaces, various facade treatments, and even different soffit colors.
Fortunately, Vanke didn't turn their property into a gated complex. The ground has become a truly accessible public space. People can walk through or hang out freely in the cool shaded areas under the giant lifted structure, or have activities in the open landscape. Local residents can also use the large stone plaza for community events, free of charge.
If you say, I still don't really understand the overall geometry of this thing, don't worry. The architect will keep showing it to you. When you push the door, you see it as a door handle. When you enter the elevator lobby, there are lights shaped as the building plan. In the chairman's office, there's a pendant lamp of the same form. Even the table in the cafeteria looks like the building. Is that too much? Someone from Vanke said, "I wouldn't mind if at least I could sit comfortably during lunch."
An interesting vertical connection space inside the Vanke offices is called the "untie bow tie" space, with the implied message that businessmen should relax and enjoy life. But would the space be less interesting without the metaphor? Or is it just some cheesy way to sell unusual architecture?
Currently, only 200 Vanke employees are using the building, and 2/3 of the megastructure stays vacant. Did they really need to build that much in the first place? Right, save for future use. It sounds like Vanke saying "We have money and we have a huge headquarters building." This phenomena of over-building happens all around China. Even if performances can only happen once a month, every city still wants to say, "Look, we have a big opera house."