Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tianyuan ChongQing China: International Urban Design Gold Medal Winner

  • This project started as an international consultancy assignment with VBN architects based in Oakland CA, to help China office design team based in Chong Qing China. On my first few days on the job as its team leader, its quite an impressive amount of works that these local designers were able to develop in such a short period of time. The site visit was a revelation. It was an old abandoned chemical factory with a history of accidents and safety related death to its workers, located along the river. According to a technical flood survey, the 100 year flood reaches to a maximum height of the adjacent road as seen from this elevation.

On a hindsight Basbas found himself struggling to persuade the local designer/ team leader not to stamp out the bicycle path experience and to create a golf and nature oasis on its courtyard open space, only to conclude that only China could make such decisions for itself. In the end, Basbas greatest contribution to architecture has not been in creating a technological image, as the twin high rise project seemed to suggest, but in emphasising the social and urban dimension of architecture, as well as in their sometimes brilliant synthesis with detail and structure to create architecture with a powerfully inventive character.

Upon returning from two weeks of extensive design concept making, I was informed that the clients like my sketches and ideas and was asked to come back to develop its big picture inspired by "butterflies" and its oasis.
I won another competition, to replace the former scheme with a new structure that took the technological expression and energy PV technology to its extreme.

  •  The residential towers uses PV on the roof and its south facing facade to gain energy and powers it lighting system at night on excess energy gain from daytime. Daylighting is an innovative idea to introduce natural light on its elevator Core stairs and lobby on every floors.

The location of the twin towers creates a gate as one enters the nearby city  tunnel. It is inspired as much by a determination to work with the visual grain of the city, rather than to be read as an alien intrusion.  The density took advantage of the site to encourage movement and community gathering a celebration. It provides a venue for discount grocery stores users located on the basement of the towers and few distance away from its entertainment center with its own courtyard for gathering along the rows of dinner restaurants and 3dmax cinemas.

The staircases, lift towers and lavatories have been extracted from the interior, and placed in expressed towers and shafts on the exterior. Allows lighting and daylighting into elevator lobby.  The notional justification is practical: it leaves floors open and uncluttered. Equally important is the defensible space effect that this arrangement makes possible and maximise view of the river


Indeed it is hard to imagine a more traditional project, Tianyuan Tower  is a tailor-made building designed as the city centre headquarters of an energy utility owner-occupier. It is the architectural equivalent of an american high rise, with an eccentric cut, perhaps, but still essentially part of architectural high culture, while its truly ‘modern’ counterpart would be in Shanghai. With this innovative and energy saving design, which set out an agenda for rescuing the cities from decay, advocating densification to revitalise them, and using abandon industrial sites, rather than sacrificing yet more green land to suburban sprawl. The final design ideas made a difference... my coming back to Chong Qing deserves a victory for VBN China west team.

This victory is not complete without recognizing the efforts of Eli Naor VBN Oakland and Caijin endearing passion for perfection and design team of VBN CHN, whose untiring efforts and long hours of work and brainstorming paid positive results and relationships with the owners.

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