Brief The project is located in a riverside residential and resort park community, Beilun District of Ningbo city, China. The designer breaks the rigid layout of grid silhouette, frames the cityscape with soft and graceful curves, draws the customers’ attentions to the upper part of the space and displays the richness of a multi-dimensional urban power with modern and simple design. With limited budget, the designer uses a surreal design methodology and create a mysterious flying saucer which appears to have traveled through time and space. The project, mainly served as a local cultural exhibition center, will become a vibrant local landmark.
Design Concept The theme of the project’s overall planning is based on the backdrop of starry nights in the sky. Highlighted with the orbital layout of stars, the main building includes the geometric composition of inclined oval and rectangular shapes interspersed to form very rich spatial layers. The curved geometric shapes are reasonably laid out, while the exterior streamlined landscape becomes the city’s interface with the spirit of openness and freedom. The semi-enclosed internal space blurs the boundary between the building and the site. With the help of star-themed gardens, it enhances the surrounding landscape and resources with a completely refreshing visual experience. The designer strives to launch an exploration of a spatial layout in futuristic architecture which combines and integrates nature, time, science and technology.
The Astronomical observatory, on the top of the landscaped lawn, is embedded with a circle through two curved surfaces made of glossy white aluminum panels, and a perforated white panel sandwiched in the middle which enables the whole building with a light floating feel. The designer tries to wake up the public’s awareness of space exploration by using the shape of a flying saucer. Simple, spiritually flexible and melted into the grass slope and the sky, it adds more visual imagination to the project. Moreover, a professional planetarium-level Celestron telescope is equipped there to offer more possibilities to explore the universe.
The grass slope strips extend out into a spinning pattern that naturally coordinates with its surroundings, allowing the building and environment to be closely integrated. At the same time, the building as a whole creates a dynamic visual effect, namely, like there are stars in the sky that never stop moving and rotating.
The entrance trail is made of curved landscape wall and dark grilles, covered with folded aluminum roof on which irregular holes are scattered to allow the penetration of natural lights to create a daytime "starry night" scene. Then comes the “Time Travel Aisle”, 3.6m wide and 22m long, with a semi-open space and almost same hues, which creates amazing effects of changing lights and shadows.
The building's inner water courtyard has no elaborate design, it just leaves more space for nature. The designer uses the simple and smooth sloping curved canopy to divide and organically connect the space between the sky and the water, this is the traditional oriental geographical philosophy of the universe, interpreted literally as "the heaven is round and earth flat". The large floor-to-ceiling frameless glass curtain walls are designed to provide a 360° view of the inner water courtyard. Pure and transparent, the indoor and outdoor spaces are permeable to each other, where people and nature can meet and communicate with comfort and ease.
Light and shadow The open-air rooftop provides all-day natural light to the inner courtyard. At night, the curved roof seems to be floating in the air under the artificial lighting, and the soft light and shadow reflected by the glass curtain wall converges above the water like scattered shining stars. This environment with uneven light and shadow amplifies the fluidity and abstractness of the space and naturally dissolves the volume of the building, and eventually creates an unforgettable spatial experience.
The backyard garden is an open lawn, with no high-rise buildings nearby, which makes up for the shortage of landscape resources around the site. The aluminum shelter and extremely permeable glass façade also introduce natural light and highlight the permeability and openness of the space. The designer, therefore, aims to create a living backyard scene where people and nature exist harmoniously.
Difficult and Solution To achieve a better experience under the condition of limited budget, the designer has adopted the “landscape architecture” strategy, which means the buildings will be integrated to the landscaped ground to create an environment close to nature, where the main building is encircled by the grass slope. This saves the cost of façade designing. And the flying saucer in a small volume also attracts the public to explore inside.
With many trials of different dimension, proportion and relationship between the inner courtyard the whole building, in the context of the interior functional layout and exterior space dimensions, the control of floor area and cost should be carefully considered. Besides the beauty of geometrical balance should also be taken into account.