Shenzhen 4 Tower in 1 by Steven Holl Architects



Steven Holl Architects have won a competition to masterplan the Futian business district in Shenzhen, China.


Steven Holl Architects’ design for the competition included four towers connected by a horizontal linking structure.  The firm was awarded the design of the overall master plan, while the tower designs (not pictured here) were won by Morphosis, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Atelier FCJZ, Hans Hollein, and MVRDV.


A horizontal walkway connects the four office blocks with each other and the street level, and contains a water garden to collect stormwater and recycle greywater from the towers.


Below is the press release from Steven Holl Architects:


Steven Holl Architects Wins Master Plan in Shenzhen “4 Tower in 1” Competition

New York, NY: February 10, 2009 – Steven Holl Architects have been selected as the winning firm for the design of the masterplan of the “4 Tower in 1” competition by unanimous decision. This competition was for an office tower complex around the new Shenzhen Stock Exchange Headquarters located in Shenzhen’s Futian commercial business district. It was organized by the Shenzhen Planning Bureau to create a unified urban plan, around the Headquarters, for the new office towers of Shenzhen Media Group, China Construction Bank, China Insurance Group, and Southern & Bosera Funds. A six-member jury chaired by Arata Isozaki selected the winners of the competition. Other participants, including Morphosis, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Atelier FCJZ, Hans Hollein, and MVRDV, won for their individual tower designs.


Steven Holl Architects’ design for the master plan is based on the concept of tropical skyscrapers as Shade Machines with a Social Bracket connecting the towers and the street level with a horizontal structure containing public programs and a rooftop water garden. The Social Bracket gathers the public programs from all four towers, combining them as one continuous element that links the four sites with the city streets and pedestrian traffic. Supporting programs for the towers, such as cafeterias and gyms, are combined in the Social Bracket and enhanced with cultural programs such as art galleries, auditoriums, and a cinema. The Social Bracket’s sculpted form allows it to negotiate between environmental restrictions and the requirements of the public programs. It features a continuous roof garden park that collects storm water and recycles all the greywater from the four skyscrapers. Roof garden ponds and plantings utilize the combined storm water and greywater after passage through a central ultraviolet filter system. A public route connects the subway into the Social Bracket, linking directly to all four towers. Connecting across the Stock Exchange Plaza, the new elevated bracket acts as an urban interface between the business-centric district to the south and the residential area to the north.

Steven Holl Architects’ design for the four towers as Shade Machine utilizes circular building footprints to maximize the interior space and open views while minimizing the exterior envelope. The optimized office floors are connected via double-height and triple-height social spaces on alternating sides of the towers. Automatic solar tracking screens made of perforated PV cells make one full rotation per day around the circumference of each building, collecting enough PV energy to cool the towers completely. Always oriented towards the sun, the moving shades harvest solar energy and block solar heat gain, their louvered sections tilting to horizontal orientation at noon to gather maximum sunlight. The one-meter deep louvers block high-angle solar gain and bounce diffused natural light onto the ceilings deep into the floor plate. The screens’ full rotation per day allows the towers to act as an urban clock with synchronized rotation in time even on cloudy days.

More Dezeen stories about Shenzhen:



China Insurance Group headquarters by Coop Himmelb(l)au


Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition by Coop Himmelb(l)au


Shenzhen Stock Exchange by OMA


Shenzhen International Airport Terminal 3 by Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas

Posted on Wednesday February 25th 2009 at 11:50 am by Rachael Sykes. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Milan

    I totally love it!

  • siksee

    from first glance: this is sooo un Steven Holl's style, no grid windows, sky bridges etc…

    there seem to be some deliberate emphasize on green features from the text, but u just don't see it from the photos expect the yet another trendy lil green roof.

    • anti-architect

      the problem in China is not that there is too much sunlight, but that there isn't enough of it, industrial airpolution combined with the blanket of clouds coming from the sea and covering the sky means that this miraculous PV rotating shading device will not happen, and there will bee no sweet story of eco-babel.
      Chinese don't care for that anyway: fake gardens, imaginary rivers that never happen,fake waterfalls, fake ecosistem, oh and fake architecture=chinese style development.
      not all though, just enuogh to make it unpleasant.
      this coming from an european that lives in china now!

  • Mary Hill

    Whats wrong with using the street to connect the 4 towers? This will only reduce street level activity. Fantastic spaces could be created at street level for everybody to use.

    Have we learned no lessons from post-war functionalist architecture?

  • tommi

    really dont like d’ term so called “competition” here, anyway finally see a different approach to d’ business district for starchitects, mayb juz because it’s a Master Plan one.

    now wonder what is d’ rest like with Morphosis, FCJZ, Hans Hollein, and MVRDV…

  • NMT

    I never leave any comments on websites like this, but I have to say this time,
    “Enough is Enough”, Steven Holl and other Starchitects has to stop littering the Chinese skyline with crap like this building, these cities are not their playgrounds because people do live there.

    Each one is worse than the one before that…..Western architects are supposed to be the tastemakers, educating Chinese clients on timeless and appropriate aesthetics, and China is not the middle east, instead of shoveling last-minutes vision down their throat……if a building needs to look irrational, please at least make it look nice.

  • A.J


    “educating Chinese clients on timeless and appropriate aesthetics” that’s pretty a pretty big generalization dude.

    “China is not the middle east” True, China is not the Middle East – but have you been to Dubai etc? It’s gorgeous, and the local people, including myself, will tell you so.

    Image #1 is going to look very, very nice. Water-feature done with subtlety and becomes architectural in itself.

  • NaRa

    I never reply to those people like you NMT, but have to do so this time.
    china is not middle east…It’s worse than anything elese.
    look some aerial pictures of newly built urban fabrics all over the country to find simply it’s not Steven Holl or any other starchitect who did that to your
    beloved china but chinese themselves are.

  • Henri

    where’s steven’s watercolors?

  • i man

    the roof garden will be a nice space for public to gather and interact…the uneven surface of the roof garden creates unique ambiance to the public to experience with..
    but i’m still wondering how steven manage with the tecnical issuess since the roof garden will absorb a large quantity of water when rains,and water leakage probably the huge maintenance problem to the building..

  • Richie

    I’m not sure if this is Holl at the top of his game, but it’s an interesting enough concept.. It will at least create some kind of connection between what might be 4 quite disparate-looking towers. You have two ‘street’ levels in that linking device, one at ground level underneath the raised structure and then one on the roof of the linking structure.

    re: NMT’s comment – the ‘starchitects’ are not the ones who commission the buildings! Your complaint would surely be better aimed at the Chinese planners and developers..?

  • andreas tischler

    @Mary Hill

    china is a little different. they usually have problems with too many people on the streets. on a project there the vice mayor of a similarly big city laughed pretty much at us for that argument. “Don´t worry” was what he said.

  • Once again a competition in shernzhen
    once again Arata isozaki is the head of Jury
    and once again just by accident coop himelb(l)au is the winner !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    it reminds us of MOCAPE SHENZHEN competition

  • by the way
    It is the same as
    KPF design
    for 5WTC