Project DescriptionCategory: Move
A 3-million-square-foot tower complex in China might not seem like the first candidate for a sensitive urban addition to a neighborhood, but New York–based Steven Holl Architects’ Sliced Porosity Block in Chengdu manages a degree of deference despite its scale. Mass has been carved and sliced from an initially solid block to create glazed internal voids in the complex’s five mixed-use towers, while allowing daylight to reach the lower-rise city surrounding it, as well as the site’s public plazas and throughways.
The complex comprises residential, office, and hotel programs along the edge of a block, with a raised plaza above a six-floor retail podium; three water gardens within the plaza double as skylights for the shopping center below. Three pavilions are framed within niches carved into the towers, including the Light Pavilion designed by the late Lebbeus Woods—an abstracted structural expression of movement with illuminated, nonlinear steel supports that defy the orthogonal geometry of the towers’ concrete exoskeleton. Vertical cuts through the tower bases reveal retail along the sides of ramps and throughways that connect the tower block to the rest of the city, prioritizing pedestrians and creating a system of pathways and circulation that forms a cityscape within a city that struck a chord with the jury.
Juror David Dowell responded to “choreography of movement through the building,” where built-in infrastructure becomes a way of organizing pedestrian flows vertically, laterally, and diagonally among the various levels of building and plaza. Juror Sheila Kennedy appreciated the podium level of the project, saying that “its landscape and circulatory infrastructure give grounding in the base,” and juror Cathy Lang Ho responded to the “interesting circulation” in what could have been simply “a superblock of office towers.” —Deane Madsen, Assoc. AIA