Aura SOHO
The proposed site is strategically located on the main road linking the Beijing Capital International Airport to the city centre. As a key gateway site, there was an ambition to create a landmark development that would define this important location. The developer wished to create a high volume commercial and retail development on the 115,393sm brownfield site to complete a masterplan which has already delivered a park and residential homes. As the base to large blue-chip firms such as Microsoft and Caterpillar, the wider area is already a proven business address, however the brief was for this scheme to cater for small, entrepreneurial firms, which is a dominant feature of the Beijing economy. In recent years Beijing has seen a new architectural family of buildings which have become icons for their districts, the design responds strongly to the need for a landmark of this nature at the city’s portal, emblematic for the area and welcoming visitors into Beijing. The location is already home to a number of tall towers and with a stated aim for more, the development was required to stand out on the skyline. Make designed a sculpted arch, which at 200m would be the tallest in the world and contrast elegantly with the surrounding towers and blocks. The 500,000sqm arch has a powerful symmetry within the 45 degree angle of the site and sits proudly between public civic space and a retail quarter. These elements are tied together with strong bands of landscaping and pedestrian routes that flow across the site and draw it into a single, harmonious scheme. The 50 storey building would house a community of small occupiers catering for the market that has developed from the entrepreneurial context of the city centre. As such it has been designed to accommodate many configurations of commercial units, allowing adaption according to tenant or market demands. The office space is 12m deep, maximising daylight and frontage. The north elevation, facing the airport, has a sculpted, undulating form which tiers down into 11 organically shaped retail pavilions at its base, interspersed with a range of private gardens, sunken courtyards and small scale public places, comparable to a traditional Chinese street pattern. The southern elevation facing the city was kept in its pure form, providing a smooth, glazed facade which provides a focal point to a new large, landscaped civic plaza that will become an important amenity for the wider masterplan as a whole. This southern elevation is clad with a white ceramic fritted glass to add definition to the smooth finish of the facade and provide both privacy and solar shading. The elements of the site are drawn together by fluid pedestrian routes and bands of landscaping. These ribbons permeate the site, flowing under, around and through the buildings, drawing strong view corridors and routes through the spaces and the arch itself. This new scheme thereby becomes the heart of the wider masterplan with activity and vibrancy that flows seamlessly between the wide civic plaza, the building and the small scale public spaces and retail beyond. These ribbons flow up into the buildings themselves, fluid and flexible at the base and becoming more formal as they move up through the structure becoming wide spandrel panels and terrace balustrades as they rise. This is expressed with a gradually changing colour, the warm yellow of the anodising graduating as it changes purpose to become silver as it reaches the upper levels of the building. Likewise, the landscaping sweeps up through the development from the public spaces and into the buildings in the form of sweeping terraces and sky gardens to provide a green landscape and bio-diversity at every level to be enjoyed by the occupants. This green space provides an important role in the environmental strategy of the building, acting as a filter for air that is drawn into the air conditioning systems. The undulating form and orientation of the building allows it to self-shade in order to reduce solar gain and the design of the building, with wide spandrel panels, ensures that the quantity of glazing is reduced. Photovoltaic panels are integrated into the facades and the proposal also included options for an energy centre with a combined heat and power plant to be installed on a level of the building which would have the capacity to provide energy for the wider masterplan as a whole.

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