Project type: Urban Planning, Highrise
Status: Concept Design Proposal
The Yudong zone, right in front of Datong’s eastern city wall will undergo a radical transformation within the next few years. Our site is located right in the epicenter of this development. With the financial centre to the north and the new sports complex to the north east, this project has the potential to incorporate a substantial part of retail, hospitality and entertainment facilities. Drawing customers after large sport events and providing a retail restaurant and entertainment option for the employees of the office buildings north of Yingbin Road. These commercial mixed-use facilities should run parallel to the Yingbin road; parallel within the property as a pedestrian street with hotels anchored at either end.
A Landmark Hotel Tower of 160m height marks the north east corner. Together with a 140m height office tower it forms the gate into the pedestrian retail/bar/restaurant street, which stretches to the west side where a plaza and four star business hotel marks the connection to Datong’s historical centre. This east-west running development sets the tone for the remaining two thirds of the site. Linear compositions of residential towers form long lines which increase in heights from south west to north east; starting with lower five-story buildings at the community centre on south west corner and culminating in the commercial centre with the landmark tower at the north east corner.
The decreased height on the south west side allows decreasing the distance between the buildings, a move that creates deep cone shaped canyons between the towers. These canyons receive themed landscapes of distinct characteristics. The southern canyon is a forested hill. As all traffic circulation to the adjacent buildings is organized from the outside, the hill stretches unobstructed from building to building. As if sand dunes had covered the ground over centuries. The hill contains a parking garage. This parking garage is practically built above ground and than covered with the excavated earth from the project site. This approach allows substantial reduction on excavation as well as to use the remaining amount of excavated earth on site as landscape feature. A sustainable concept! Sustainable in terms of reduced construction cost, but as well in terms of reduced transportation + energy, and reduced demand for landfill on other sites.
The second cone shaped canyon widens from east to west. It’s the widest space of the development and according to the minimizing excavation concept; the landscape is partly “mountain” or better a rolling hill with a “river” on its north side. The river is actually not a real river, but the landscape appears to be a river bed which is overgrown with reeds or weeds that create the illusion of a river. This illusion gets enhanced by bridges over which the northern towers are accessible. The southern Towers are standing practically in the river. The rivers serves as storm drain of the entire development, meaning that all rain water runoff gets directed to the “river” where special plant selections clean the rainwater before it disperses into the ground. Rain water runoff into the sewage system or the Yu River can be avoided. At the west side of the central canyon the space widens dramatically. Sufficient for freestanding villas or office buildings, and the community centre with kindergarten and elementary school.
Residential Building Design:
The individual residential buildings are composed of a multitude of vertical frames. While the frames run continuously along the entire height of the buildings, a multitude of cantilevered floor plates, balconies and double story glass facades create variety along the facades. Each building features a double story elevated garden, and an assigned area of apartments where the typical balcony is glass enclosed. These two elements repeat in each vertical frame, but as they change in elevation from frame to frame a waving super sign is drafted along the long south and north elevations.
The dynamic waving arrangement of cubic building parts is repeated in the composition of the building tops and the retail street. The static cubes appear to be set into motion and respond to the rolling hills and waving river formations of the landscape design. The rendered images show a materiality of exposed concrete and wood. Both materials are chosen due to their haptical quality with the ability to age well in northern Chinese conditions. In addition, they are the most sustainable building material choices. Wood of certified origin contributes most to CO2 reduction and as concrete is required for a project of this scale, it’s the most sustainable option to use it exposed and save all further energy and material for cladding (thermal insulation will be provided as core insulation embedded into the concrete walls). If the aesthetic of exposed concrete is considered challenging for the local market, the buildings could be equipped with an extruded foam insulation system and painted plaster façade in charcoal black or white (see rendered images).
Architectural expression of Commercial Street:
The buildings of the commercial street consist of a folded landscape of greened roofs providing the adjacent apartments with the impression of a green garden. The roof is carried by wooden, tree shaped columns. Glazed cubic volumes under the roofs are stepping back and forward in the previously described wavy pattern creating a play of different depth roof overhangs, for covered walkways or plazas.
Privacy + Security
The southern parts of the project can be gated in the common way with no uncontrolled access into the landscaped area and to the buildings and parking garage. The buildings south of the retail street can be exclusively accessible by bridges over the “grass river” from their south side. The ground floor and 2nd floor levels can still be retail spaces accessible exclusively from the north side. The buildings on the north side can either be provided with a small gated zone towards the Yingbin Road, but to allow maximized retail street frontage a single building security system would be preferred (on lobby per building core with either staffed lobby or electronic access system. Please refer to the enclosed drawings for further details and illustrations.
The layout allows for easy phasing of the construction in the south west with lower rise buildings as gated community. The south east side would follow as second phase. And the retail street with the Landmark towers could follow last, allowing for the northern office areas and the sports centre to be completed first and as such avoiding a temporary lack of customers for the hotels and retail areas. Please refer to the enclosed drawings for further details and illustrations.
The choice of natural woods and exposed concrete as sustainable materials was mentioned earlier. Minimizing the excavation and using the “grass river” for a comprehensive storm water management where described as well. In addition we would like to mention that the buildings have approximately 50 % of closed facades to reduce energy loss. The north south facing building orientation and the use of balconies and extended floor plates as shading devices will optimize the solar protection in summer time and allow for solar gain in winter. All roofs should be greened to reduce solar reflections. In addition to these sustainable architectural settings, the buildings shall be equipped with Grey water usage systems, low flow and energy saving appliances. Geothermal techniques shall be considered based on local soil conditions. As special feature of sustainable green living we propose to utilize the “sky gardens” as green houses for “urban farming” in which each family can rent assigned “fields” to grow vegetables or flowers. A setting which will not just provide healthy organic food, but at the same time educate children about a sustainable lifestyle and create a unique community space for the residents.