Danish architecture firm BIG recently unveiled the Qianhai Prisma Towers in Shenzhen, China, both composed of leaning volumes that taper toward the sky. The skyscrapers, which will rise on either side of Shenzhen Hong Kong Plaza, a cultural development designed by Japanese studio Sou Fujimoto and known as the “green belt,” will be 300 and 250 meters tall, respectively.
The taller will contain apartments, while the shorter tower will be offices. The residential tower will be enclosed by three rectangular volumes of different heights, with “sky garden” terraces, and a roofscape on top. The three leaning volumes create openings for balconies at every level of the building and a covered entrance on the ground floor. The lush biophilia on the balconies and ledges contrasts the glass facades that shimmer subtly throughout the passing of the day.
“Both towers are conceived as simple prismatic building envelopes split open to make room for public space on the ground where they stand,” explains Bjarke Ingels, Founder & Creative Director of BIG. “The open seams and gaping corners allow the green spaces to ascend from the ground to the sky leaving wedges for outdoor gardens and terraces for the life of the people living and working within. With its timeless simplicity and inviting openness – the architecture of the two towers is firmly rooted in the urban values underpinning Shenzhen – a vertical modern city of 1000 parks.”
The ground plane of the towers opens up to create a dynamic and welcoming urban living room while connecting the towers to the ‘green belt’ and nearby shopping mall. A meandering biophilic pedestrian skybridge functions as a canopy, providing shade and protection from the rain while connecting the shopping mall, the retail podium, and the surrounding neighborhood.
Peeking through the building envelope openings, cascading green terraces are introduced from the street level and up to the roof, where office workers and visitors can enjoy 360-degree views of Qianhai Bay. Solar cells are integrated in the slightly tilted office tower’s West and East façade spandrel to maximize the photovoltaic efficiency. To better respond to the local climate achieving and improving thermal performance, double-skin closed-cavity façade is used for the most exposed orientation of office tower. The apartment tower units have operable ventilation inlets built into the window frames to allow for natural ventilation.
The tripod footprint of the 130,760 m2 residential tower is a radial array of three rectangular volumes that step up at different heights – providing multiple views towards the city and the ocean while creating beautiful living spaces, ‘sky garden’ terraces, and a roofscape. Between the volumes, the envelope opens up to create a subtle crevice of green balconies, from the ground level to the roofs.
From the interior of the tower, the corners peel open to create outdoor terraces on every floor. The west tower wall extends slightly skywards to reiterate the leaning gesture – delicately joining the remaining three walls/envelopes to create a sculptural addition to the skyline.
“As the tower footprints open to the ground, they celebrate the connectivity to the transit infrastructure, retail and adjacent buildings. Pedestrian walkways connect multiple stories to provide seamless transitions between the towers and the surrounding public programs, forming a pedestrian network that leads up to the Qianhai Bay Waterfront Park,” says Martin Voelkle, Partner in Charge, BIG.
The ground floor wayfinding takes inspiration from the Qianhai Bay, oftentimes appearing as a series of ripples while facilitating the flow of people through the entrances in and around the towers. The public realm of the ground floor office tower includes an amphitheater, tree-shaded social spaces, and an under-porch bar. In response to the climatic characteristics of the region activities are located under the canopy, trees and overhangs of the building. Rainwater is collected via the sloped curtain walls, utilized for irrigation system and maintenance of the public space.
Both towers are strategically positioned between the two intercity railways; the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Intercity Railway is at the east side of the site, and the proposed Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Express Railway will be at the west side of the residential tower. An adjacent below-grade retail corridor will provide both towers with direct access to the Transportation Hub via the below-grade lobbies. To complement the accessibility of the transport hub, an additional 966 long-term bicycle parking spaces will be available for building occupants.
The Qianhai Prisma Towers, expected to begin construction in 2025, will be BIG’s second project in Shenzhen following Shenzhen Energy Mansion’s completion in 2017.