Vanke Center Shenzhen by Steven Holl Architects


Steven Holl Architects have completed a building conceived as a "horizontal skyscraper", supported over a landscaped garden in Shenzhen, China.

The project has been awarded with a 2010 Honor Award by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter. Holl's Knut Hamsun Center at Hamarøy (see our earlier story) will also be awarded at the ceremony in April.

Called Vanke Center Shenzhen, the building is as long as the Empire State Building is tall, and includes apartments, offices and a hotel, with a conference centre, spa and car park below ground level.

The structure spreads out under the 35 meter height limit on the site, supported on eight cores using bridge-building technology and a concrete frame to maximise the area available for gardens beneath.

Photographs are by Shu He, Courtesy Steven Holl Architects.

Here's some more information from Steven Holl Architects:

Vanke Center Shenzhen,
China 2006 - 2009

Hovering over a tropical garden, this ‘horizontal skyscraper’ –as long as the Empire State Building is tall- unites into one vision the headquarters for Vanke Co. ltd, office spaces, apartments, and a hotel. A conference center, spa and parking are located under the large green, public landscape.

The building appears as if it were once floating on a higher sea that has now subsided; leaving the structure propped up high on eight legs.

The decision to float one large structure right under the 35-meter height limit, instead of several smaller structures each catering to a specific program, was inspired by the hope to create views over the lower developments of surrounding sites to the South China Sea, and to generate the largest possible green space open to the public on the ground level.

Advanced structural technologies and construction techniques opened up the new type of flying architecture that introduces a new urban layer to Shenzhen.

Suspended on eight cores, as far as 50 meters apart, this floating horizontal skyscraper is a sophisticated combination of “cable-stay” bridge technology merged with a high strength concrete frame: a structure without trusses.

The underside of the floating structure becomes its main elevation from which sunken glass cubes, the so-called ‘Shenzhen Windows’, offer 360-degree views over the lush tropical landscape below.

Covering the entire length of the building a public path has been proposed to connect through the hotel, and the apartment zones up to the office wings.

The floating horizontal building allows sea and land breezes to pass through the public gardens. The landscape, inspired by Roberto Burle Marx’ gardens in Brazil contains restaurants and cafes in vegetated mounds bracketed with pools and walkways.

At night a walk through this landscape of flowering tropical plants will mix the smell of Jasmine with the colorful glow of the undersides of the structure floating above.

Under the landscape diverse semi-public functions create lively spaces. A large conference center includes a foamed-aluminum auditorium with green mohair seating that seats 400 people. There is a large spa with indoor and outdoor pools, and a polychromatic bar with large pivoting doors of 4.8 meters high that feel like giant lacquered paintings.

The ceiling of dark cobalt blue contrasts with walls in Chinese red and hand-applied gold leaf.

As a tropical, sustainable 21st century vision the building and the landscape integrate several new sustainable aspects. A microclimate is created by rectangular cooling lakes fed by a greywater system. The building itself has a green roof with solar panels and widely uses sustainable materials such as bamboo.

The glass façade of the building will be protected against the sun and wind by porous louvers. The Vanke Headquarter wing of the floating horizontal skyscraper is aimed at LEED Platinum. The Vanke Center is a Tsunami-proof 21st century hovering architecture that creates a porous micro-climate of freed landscape.

Horizontal Skyscraper/Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China:

Steven Holl Architects has been awarded two 2010 Honor Awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter for the Horizontal Skyscraper in Shenzhen, China and the Knut Hamsun Center in Hamarøy, Norway.

The Horizontal Skyscraper, completed in December 2009, is as long as the Empire State Building is tall, and as one of the first LEED platinum rated buildings in Southern China, it recently received a 2010 Good Design is Good Business China Award for Best Green project.

The Knut Hamsun Center, completed August 2009, is dedicated to Knut Hamsun and includes exhibition areas, a library and reading room, a café, and an auditorium. The building is conceived as an archetypal and intensified compression of spirit in space and light, concretizing a Hamsun character in architectonic terms.

The winning Design Award projects will be recognized at the annual Design Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, April 14th. All winning work will be exhibited at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place. The Design Awards Exhibition will be on view from Thursday, April 15 through July 3, 2010.

program: mixed-use building including hotel, offices, condominiums, and public park
project type: competition
building area (square): 1296459sf/120445sm
landscape area (square): 559723sf/52000sm
public green space (square): 509004sf/47288sm
size conference center (square): 89254sf/8292sm
size condominiums (square): 276676sf/25704sm
size hotel (square): 119619sf/11113sm
size soho offices (square): 146292sf/13591sm
size vanke headquarters: 149338sf/13874sm

Posted on Friday March 5th 2010 at 12:34 pm by Antonia Anastasiadi. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • fascinating structure, bit like an elongated and horizontal VitraHaus, especially in the last photo before the press release… v.good

  • mf

    holl always has something new

  • Shmuck

    there for opening night, awful singers, but unforgetable building. Photos dont do it justice by any means! Shame it isnt central to Shenzhen to give that city more credentials. Was amazing to walk around the site and to be completely taken in by the scale of the building. Holl really has used the context to its potential! Love it!


    Congratulations! A beautiful project and well done construction!

  • dw

    hmm. hard to comment on this…i just think they might have had same massing figure even if the project was 10 times smaller.

  • Joe B.

    the best of the best. congrads.

  • Impressive. Great interiors.

  • Sublime!

  • carl

    Steven Holl never ceases to amaze

  • Hamid

    an arial view will show this masterpiece better!
    dezeen, please!!!!

  • Dustin

    I went to see Linked Hybrid in Beijing and the details were horrible. However, the photos seem to show a well-detailed building here. Usually buildings built in China are pretty poorly built, in my opinion.

  • mismismisu

    i like it

  • AD NY

    This building is like a mannequin – gorgeous but without life. Same could be said about the public spaces…

  • Thaer Alruaye

    That is great…

  • Architects must accept that the modern project is not obsolete, but even if neoliberalism is collapsing. This project would be very interesting if the landscape had been studied from the perspective of urban land use and social expressions and not the merely picturesque.

  • This seems like one of the most successful implementations of a horizontal skyscraper that I have seen.
    The building seems very balanced, is placed beautifully on the site, has incredible public spaces. A refreshing change from large scale projects going on elsewhere.

  • Hars

    virtual reality just became reality

  • angry catalan

    Pedro: that’s a weird thing to say of both Steven Holl and Modernism. To be honest “the modern project” is more about 3D cubism than “land use and social expression” (it’d be quite a stretch to compare early Bauhaus projects to MVRDV, plus, how much did people such as Ernst May or Hannes Meyer influence actual modernism? Not much I’d say, maybe modern design, but not modern architecture). Also Holl tends to think a lot about public space and the sense of place… yes, with fairly complex tectonics, but I don’t think that can be reduced to “the picturesque”. Le Corbusier’s (or Sert’s, or Breuer’s, or Aalto’s, or Meier’s…) buildings follow similar criteria.

  • There’s elements I like about this project; I like how it wraps and zigs with a contour of its own and provides changing views from the lake, mountains, or to the ocean. The provision of public space beneath is laudable, but I wonder if it won’t feel a bit cave like and unpleasant, giant lacquered painted surfaces notwithstanding. Will people who aren’t already coming to the structure to live or work just want to pass through those spaces from one part of town to another? Are the reflecting pools something to interact with or just to provide a static photograph framed by the windows inside? Also, some of the interior images look like expressionist dream schemes and I wonder how it must be to have all those various uses contained in one, gleaming white interior structure. How differentiated will it be from one part to the next? If you live and work in the same building, won’t you feel a bit like a voyager in a spaceship (in the bad sense)?

  • cock

    So this was built in the 60’s?

  • seda kurt

    Worry about the building is a real or a model only…It is a successful construction I think. The architectural behaviour is like Steven Holl; but the interiors follow different way from the extriors, so I think that has the building own its whole description of the design? It is complicated for me now.

  • seda kurt

    And although ‘the horizontal skyscraper’ is getting larger areas for leisure and if this situation are not going to use for useful functions, it is a disadvantage for site plan. But in this building the landscape is a part of the building that inspired from Burle Marx. All the time it should be a way of the designing principles.

  • rona

    took me a while to realize that its not 3d virtul….
    WoW its real!!
    A M A Z I N G!

  • gaque

    i must be missing something…everyone seems to be praising this building, but i just see a raised glass box with some titled columns and translucent elevator cores…im not sure that some grass hills make much of a nice exterior space.

    angry catalan, pedro has all the right to comment on the lackluster landscape design. just look at the diagram: some sexy box thing floating atop a totally nondescript surface. anyway, it seems the building was designed to provide very precise views…thats picturesque thinking.

  • angry catalan

    Gaque: to be honest I replied because of the “modernism and land use” remark, which is rather strange… at any rate I haven’t taken a serious look at this project so I can’t really comment on whether it’s picturesque or not, but after all architecture is all about the perception of space, so I don’t really think you can dismiss architects interested in phenomenology as “picturesque”, especially since for me the word carries heavy connotations of Victorian landscaping…

  • colin

    Stunning hovering structure!

  • 安藤


  • edub

    let me get this straight… this building is as long as the Empire State building is tall?.

    … just wanted to make sure ;)

  • Eveline van Spaendonck

    two words : loving it!

  • our firm did the interior work with SHA – this is an amazing structure! especially considering it’s in SZ…i think to have a client like Vanke is really lucky, they can afford the price, and the concept too.
    it’s a pity that it’s so far out from the city, which hasnt got anything exciting. (probably with the exception of the metro tower by Pei Zhu).

  • miggzz

    Looks ordinary unsteven holl like, a subdued Morphosis. but workmanship is good and well executed. Might be a good school venue if Vanke wishes to develop one for upcoming builders and developers .

  • CD1

    I don't understand the views diagram. Why do the short ends get the best views instead of the long sides? What the diagram is saying is that the layout minimizes views along those orange arrows by having the smallest surfaces facing them. It seems like post-rationalization at its worst. Also, the building is completely anti-urban. The landscape is pretty but doesn't seem like enough of a reason to raise the building.

  • this is great work the fact that it still maintains the natural existence.

  • dmm

    is this closer to Shekou ferry from HK OR Lowu.
    Seems only way there is 45 min taxi ride.
    Any tips on transport to get out there?