Photo: Hufton + Crow
Steven Holl has completed his latest, and some might say, most significant project in China. The Sliced Porosity Block, or "CapitaLand Raffles City Chengdu"---we can't decide which is hokier---was recently opened, ushering in a new type of architecture for one of China's fastest growing cities. Located in the heart of Chengdu, the dense three million square-foot complex creates a completely novel public space that's hemmed in by five residential/office towers. The scheme, which flips the generic tower-and-podium typology on its head, differentiates itself from other nearby urban projects by privileging public space over exuberant form and material-wasting showmanship.
The "Sliced Porosity Block" derives its name from the manner in which the towers are angled and offset from another so as to let light penetrate the central courtyard. The resultant forms appear chiseled, almost haphazardly so, yet which lend the complex a dynamism that's mostly missing from Holl's other projects in the Middle Kingdom, namely the Linked Hybrid. The perimeter facades are flat and covered with a standard-Holl grid, thus maintaining the rigid borders of the block. This "flatness" gives way at the corners to large vertiginous expanses of shear glass walls which accommodate shifts in section and program.
The play between the platonic envelope and the animated form sandwiched in between creates interesting pockets of elevated public space. These urban crevices are the sites of three small pavilions, most notably the Light Pavilion by the late Lebbeus Woods and the architect's only built work. A second, by the Chinese sculptor Han Meilin, and a third by Steven Holl round out the complex's cultural landmarks. A partially submerge shopping mall forms an artificial hillock that circulates pedestrians and residents from the central plaza to other parts of this "micr0-city."
Read more about Steven Holl Architects' Sliced Porosity Block in the Architizer database here.