Four years after breaking ground, Steven Holl Architects have completed the Sliced Porosity Block in the heart of Chengdu, China. Rather than being designed as object-icon skyscrapers, the three million square foot complex identifies itself as a metropolitan public space with large plazas and a hybrid of different functions. The five towers stimulate a micro urbanism by offering offices, serviced apartments, retail, a hotel, cafes, and restaurants.

Architect: Steven Holl Architects
Location: Chengdu, China
Client: CapitaLand Development
Site Area: 57415 ft / 17500 m
Building Area: 3336812 sqft / 310000 sqm
Floor area (square) above: 2098963sqft / 195000 sqm
Floor area (square) below: 1237850 sqft / 115000 sqm
Project Year: 2008-2012

Associate Architects: China Academy of Building Research
MEP and Fire Engineer: Ove Arup & Partners
LEED Consultant: Ove Arup & Partners
Structural Engineer: China Academy of Building Research
Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon & Seah (DLS)
Traffic Consultant: MVA Hong Kong ltd

Sun Shaped Micro City in Chengdu_Steven Holl Architects_02
Sun Shaped Micro City in Chengdu_Steven Holl Architects_02

Steven Holl describes these environmentally state of the art skyscrapers as “a poetic form shaped by sunlight.” The required minimum sunlight exposures to the surrounding urban fabric prescribe precise geometric angles that slice the exoskeletal concrete frame of the building. The white concrete structure is organized in six foot high openings with earthquake diagonals as required while the “sliced” sections are glass.

Sun Shaped Micro City in Chengdu_Steven Holl Architects_03
Sun Shaped Micro City in Chengdu_Steven Holl Architects_03

The large public space framed in the center of the block is formed into three valleys inspired by a poem of the city’s greatest poet, Du Fu (713-770), who wrote, ‘From the northeast storm-tossed to the southwest, time has left stranded in Three Valleys.’ The three plaza levels feature water gardens based on concepts of time – the Fountain of the Chinese Calendar Year, Fountain of Twelve Months, and Fountain of Thirty Days. These three ponds function as skylights to the six-story shopping precinct below.

Sun Shaped Micro City in Chengdu_Steven Holl Architects_04
Sun Shaped Micro City in Chengdu_Steven Holl Architects_04

Establishing human scale in this metropolitan rectangle is achieved through the concept of “micro urbanism,” with double-fronted shops open to the street as well as the shopping center. Three large openings are sculpted into the mass of the towers as the sites of the pavilion of history, designed by Steven Holl Architects, the Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods, and the Local Art Pavilion by Chinese sculptor Han Meilin.
The Sliced Porosity Block is heated and cooled with 468 geothermal wells and the large ponds in the plaza harvest recycled rainwater, while the natural grasses and lily pads create a natural cooling effect. High performance glazing, energy-efficient equipment and the use of regional materials are among the other methods employed to reach the LEED Gold rating.