Dalian Customs

Project type: Office, Highrise


Location: Dalian, China


Time: 2006


Size: 60,000 sqm

Dalian Customs Office and Laboratory Complex


Since most of GRAFT’s work in the years before 2006 centered around topics such as art, hospitality, residential, and exhibition design, the invitation to participate in the design competition for the new customs office and laboratory complex in Dalian posed an interesting challenge, especially since the client, the Chinese Customs Authority, requested a building of strong authoritarian expression. They preferred a design of stone construction and axial symmetry with an impressive flight of stairs, as in the previous office. In opposition to the customs authorities the host of the competition, the Building Department of Dalian, wanted a contemporary design to landmark Dalian as a modern and welcoming city.


In this tension field of opposing interests, GRAFT decided to graft the conflicting ideas to create an ambiguous design of welcoming, authoritarian expression. GRAFT’s design opens the traditionally fenced-off customs property to the general public by placing the required security line at the building envelope itself. A public plaza leading to the main entrance provides a pedestrian link between the existing residential area to the south and the new east harbor commercial zone. The expansive stone form to the east side of the plaza accommodates a conference center and staff cafeteria. The character of the massive stone buildings transforms by night when the volumes are illuminated by indirect light.