Dalian International Conference Center
by Coop Himmelb(l)au


Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au has completed the Dalian International Conference Center, a contorted steel building in China with conference halls bursting through its facade.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

The conference centre is constructed beside the harbour in the city of Dalian. Positioned at the far end of the city's main axis, the building was conceived as a landmark for the developing district outside the densely populated centre.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Coop Himmelb(l)au designed the building as a twisted mass of steel and concrete, with ridged surfaces that flare outwards like the gills of a bulbous fish. Behind these openings, large areas of glazing bring natural light inside.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

The core of the building is a 1600-seat theatre and concert hall. The primary conference room is positioned just behind and can accommodate up to 2500 delegates, but can also be adapted to provide a banqueting hall, an exhibition gallery or extra seating for the concert hall.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Six additional conference suites are dotted around the perimeter of the building and cantilever out beyond the natural line of the exterior walls. The capacity of these rooms varies between 300 and 600 people, but most can be subdivided to create smaller spaces.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

A public foyer winds through the building to connect each room, and also features a central meeting area.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Coop Himmelb(l)au won a competition in 2008 to design the Dalian International Conference Center. Construction commenced later that year and involved the help of shipbuilders, who were brought in to bend the massive steel plates of the outer shell.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Coop Himmelb(l)au is led by architect Wolf D. Prix, who last summer launched a scathing attack on the Venice Architecture Biennale for placing too much emphasis on celebrity. His studio also recently completed another grand-scale project in Asia - the Busan Cinema Centre in South Korea, which features a cantilever wider than the wings of an Airbus A380. See more architecture by Coop Himmelb(l)au.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Another major building proposed for Dalian in recent years was the football stadium designed by UNStudio, but this project has now been put on hold. See more stories about architecture in China.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Photography is by Duccio Malagamba.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Here's a more detailed project description from Coop Himmelb(l)au:

Dalian International Conference Center, Dalian, China (2008-2012)

The building has both to reflect the promising modern future of Dalian and its tradition as an important port, trade, industry and tourism city. The formal language of the project combines and merges the rational structure and organization of its modern conference center typology with the floating spaces of modernist architecture.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Dalian is an important seaport, industrial, trade, and tourism center, located in the southernmost part of the Liaodong Peninsula in the Chinese Liaoning Province. The city is currently undergoing a wave of transformation on coastal brownfield and reclaimed land which will entirely change the city's face within the next decade.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

The key developments are:

» Dislocation of container port away from the dense city area
» Establishment of international port for cruise ships
» New development of a "CBD – Central Business District" on reclaimed land
» Bridge over the sea to connect with the special economic zone

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

The urban design task of the Dalian International Conference Center is to create an instantly recognizable landmark at the terminal point of the future extension of the main city axis. As its focal point the building will be anchored in the mental landscape of the population and the international community. The footprint of the building on the site is therefore arranged in accordance with the orientation of the two major urban axis which merge in front of the building. The cantilevering conference spaces that penetrate the facades create a spatially multifaceted building volume and differentiate the close surroundings. The various theaters and conference spaces are covered by a cone-shaped roof screen. Through controlled daylight input good spatial orientation for the visitors and atmospheric variety is assured.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

The project combines the following functions within one hybrid building with synergetic effects of functionality and spatial richness.

» Conference Center
» Theater and Opera House
» Exhibition Center
» Basement with Parking, Delivery and Disposal

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

A public zone at ground level allows for differentiating accessibility for the different groups of users. The actual performance and conference spaces are situated at +15.30 m above the entrance hall. The grand theater, with a capacity of 1,600 seats and a stage tower, and the directly adjacent flexible conference hall of 2,500 seats, are positioned at the core of the building. With this arrangement the main stage can be used for the classical theater auditorium as well as for the flexible multipurpose hall. The main auditorium is additionally equipped with backstage areas like in traditional theaters and opera houses. This scheme is appropriate to broaden the range of options for the use of this space: from convention, musical, theater even up to classical opera, with very little additional investment.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

The smaller conference spaces are arranged like pearls around this core, providing very short connections between the different areas, thus saving time while changing between the different units. Most conference rooms and the circulation areas have direct daylight from above. Through this open and fluid arrangement the theater and conference spaces on the main level establish a kind of urban structure with "squares" and "street spaces". These identifiable "addresses" facilitate user orientation within the building. Thus the informal meeting places, as well as chill-out and catering zones, and in between the halls, gardens with view connection to outside are provided as required for modern conference utilization. The access to the basement parking garage, truck delivery and waste disposal is located at the southwest side of the site, thus freeing the front driveway to the entrances from transit traffic. The main entrance from the sea side corresponds to the future developments, including the connection to the future cruise terminal.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Technical, Climatic and Environmental Concept

The focus of the architectural design and project development lies on technology, construction and their interplay. The technical systems fulfil the tasks required for the spatial use of the building automatically, invisibly and silently.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

With the Dalian International Dalian Conference Center, these systems work like a hybrid city within a building. For the technical infrastructure of the building this means, that we have to consider a huge amount of people circulating inside the building at the same time, who expect high standards in circulation and comfort as well as a state of the art building with respect to high flexibility, low energy consumption and low use of natural resources.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Technical areas in the basement supply infrastructure within a rectangular grid, mainly inside the vertical cores. In particularly the conference zone has to be provided with a sufficient amount of air in order to maintain a high level of thermal and acoustical comfort. Therefore the conditioned air will be silently injected into the rooms via an inflated double flooring underneath the seating. Air blowout units inside the stairs will ensure consistent air distribution. Due to the thermal uplift, the heat of the people ascends to the ceiling and is extracted by suction.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: ground floor plan - click for larger image

One of the major tasks of sustainable architecture is the minimisation of energy consumption. A fundamental contribution is to avoid considerable fluctuations in demands during the course of the day. Therefore it is essential to integrate the natural resources of the environment like:

» Use the thermal energy of seawater with heat pumps for cooling in summer and heating in winter
» General use of low temperature systems for heating in combination with activation of the concrete core as thermal mass in order to keep the building on constant temperature
» Natural ventilation of the huge air volumes within the building allows for minimization of the mechanical apparatus for ventilation heating and cooling. The atrium is conceived as a solar heated, naturally ventilated sub climatic area.
» In the large volume individual areas can be treated separately by additional measures such as displacement ventilation
» A high degree of daylight use is aspired both for its positive psychological effect and for minimizing the power consumption for artificial lighting
» Energy production with solar energy panels integrated into the shape of the building.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: first floor plan - click for larger image

Structural Concept

The structural concept is based on a sandwich structure composed of 2 elements: the "table" and the roof. Both elements are steel space frames with depths ranging between 5 and 8 meters. The whole structure is elevated 7 meters above ground level and is supported by 14 vertical composite steel and concrete cores. A doubly ruled façade structure connects the two layers of table and roof, creating a load-bearing shell structure. The application of new design and simulation techniques, the knowledge of local shipbuilders to bend massive steel plates, and the consumption of more than 40,000 tons of steel enables breathtaking spans of over 85 meters and cantilevering of over 40 meters.

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: second floor plan - click for larger image

Planning: COOP HIMMELB(L)AU - Wolf D. Prix / W. Dreibholz & Partner ZT GmbH
Design Principal: Wolf D. Prix
Project Partner: Paul Kath (until 2010), Wolfgang Reicht
Project Architect: Wolfgang Reicht
Design Architect: Alexander Ott
Design Team: Quirin Krumbholz, Eva Wolf, Victoria Coaloa

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: third floor plan - click for larger image

Local Partner: DADRI Dalian Institute of Architecture Design and Research Co. LTD, UD Studio, J&A Interior Design

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: fourth floor plan - click for larger image

Client: Dalian Municipal People’s Government, P.R. China
Structural Engineering: B+G Ingenieure, Bollinger Grohmann Schneider ZT-GmbH, DADRI Dalian Institute of Architecture Design and Research Co. LTD
Acoustics: Müller-BBM, Planegg
Stage Design: BSEDI Beijing Special Engineering Design and Research Institute
Lighting Design: a•g Licht, Wilfried Kramb

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: fifth floor plan - click for larger image

Audio & Video: CRFTG Radio, Film and Television Design & Research Institute
Climatic Design: Prof. Brian Cody
HVAC, Sprinkler: Reinhold A. Bacher, DADRI Dalian Institute of Architecture Design and Research Co. LTD
Façade: Meinhardt Facade Technology Ltd.
Photovoltaic: Baumgartner GmbH
General Contractor: China Construction Eight Engineering Division

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: sixth floor plan - click for larger image

Competition: 03/2008
Start of Planning: 07/2008
Start of Construction: 11/2008
Completion: 2012

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: reflected ceiling plan - click for larger image

Site Area: 40,000 sqm
Gross Floor Area Conference Center: 91,250 sqm
Gross Floor Area Parking: 24,400 sqm
Gross Floor Area total: 117,650 sqm
Footprint: 33,000 sqm

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: top view - click for larger image

Building Height: 60 m
Building Length: 220 m
Building Width: 200 m
Number of Floors: 8

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: functional options - click for larger image

Dalian International Conference Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Above: climate design - click for larger image

  • recon::decon

    Ouch. Looks painful. Like someone took a Zaha building, cut gills in it and then stepped on it.

  • Colonel Pancake

    Hahaha. This building’s form is an entirely empty gesture and it’s not even an appealing one at that. Look at the first floor plan and notice how all the programmatic elements are arranged with orthogonal forms, which then get sexed up with this pseudo-organic drapery of steel paneling. What a clusterf*ck of ego.

    • michal

      My thoughts as well. Big words and promises about progressive form, but one look at the plan and you know it’s just superficial skin-decorating. The only purpose of this building is to make two to three shocking pictures Mr Prix will hang in his office. No one he cares about is going to ever see the building in reality in the end.

  • citizen

    This makes me sad.

  • Charlie Bing

    Couldn’t help noticing the person pushing the wheelbarrow. Enough said.

  • morgs96

    A big slug!!

  • Pluk

    I think it looks better than the film museum in Amsterdam EYE.

  • guest

    This is unspeakably disgusting. Foreign companies do more and more sh*t in China. It has to stop!

    • michal

      The truth is, China wants it. There are hundreds of architects capable of working on such a scale. They just chose the most extravagant, because it shows the money you put in it. It is the same primitive mentality you find so often where there’s money and no culture – modesty is considered weak. Cars and buildings are not only expensive, they have to look hedonistic, opulent and very expensive. It is their prime purpose. If this building was anything other than extravagant and expensive, it would not have been. Mr Prix does what he likes to do, such as every architect. But someone payed the bill.

      • marco

        Let’s not pretend this empty urban hedonism is something exclusively Chinese. The same sorts of urban monsters are currently being built in places like Lyon by Coop Himmelb(l)au and Paris by Jean Nouvel.

  • chewie

    Thar she blows! Man the harpoons!

  • Packe

    It looks like a set design from the movie Event Horizon.

    • blah

      Except Event Horizon was compelling and watchable.

  • pedro

    What? Run you guys – it’s alive! This is stupid!

  • Mozart & Gunfire

    “Oops! I dropped the model through the paper shredder!”

  • fayons

    It looks like a real life Google SketchUp model.

  • Kenneth Smythe

    So much ‘NOW’ architecture (since Bilbao) seems to be approaching and waiting for Chicxulub.

  • Tellstlikeitis

    Great Work Zaha! No honestly Morphosis really outdid themselves with this one.
    I really hope for more projects by Coop Himmelb(l)au because Ma Yansong is a true genius… etc.

  • Unbelievable

    What a travesty of a building this is. And this guy has the gall to attack David Chipperfield over Venice last year?

    I love China but they ae not helping anyone by inflating Mr Prix’s already bloated ego.

  • Ralph Kent

    Blue sky building indeed. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Embarrassingly bad.

  • paolo

    I love this project! People, look at it. It’s strong, powerful and it says a lot.

    • blah

      Hitler was strong and powerful and said a lot as well. (Just sayin’)

  • Fu Chen

    So many buildings now, as is this one, are more about the technology than the architecture. No true aesthetics – just intellectual farts. Yes, the building might work, but it doesn’t matter if it looks like sh*t. There should be a balance and both should be excellent. In this project, I think that was not achieved.

    • Nigel

      I would like to underscore the point about intellectual farts.

  • gudrungudrun

    Mr Prix has a bloated ego? He always struck me as this nice, friendly, benevolent, wonderful, gentlemanly kind of a person who is really nice and wonderful and nice and stuff. No idea he could be considered otherwise in any way shape or whatshmacallit. I am shocked!

  • Sultony

    It is such a shame to see so much energy, creativity and technological skill be misdirected. It will also have an overpowering effect upon the visitors by humbling their existence, not only for the sheer scale of the beast, but by its unexplained forms and rhythms.

    The boys with their CAD toys are having a ball, but now is the time for a proper humanistic rationale to be adopted, or else the aliens will be licking their lips at these appetising gestures.

  • Max

    Obviously this is not to the Dezeen crowd’s liking, but I have to say that with such a crazy outfit it is a pleasure to look at a very rational and flexible plan. At least these Austrians know how to put a building together. What impresses me most is that there was apparently only 3 people in the design team! Wow these girls and guy must have worked day and night.

  • Architect

    Prix, who always mentions – even if nobody asks for – that he deserves the next Pritzker Prize, confirms again: his architecture is pretentious, boring and not relevant at all. Two and a half dimensions. You have no 3D skills and your architecture is decoration without content.

  • Dynaformer

    Those criticizing, have you been to any Prix buildings? I think you should visit them to appreciate their spatial and tectonic qualities before you make such comments. There are many ways of doing architecture. Architects should be able to explore different possibilities.

    Before labeling formal architecture and seeing them as empty gestures that are all the same, it might be good to study Morphosis, Zaha, Gehry, Scott Cohen, Coop etc. and see what each are trying to achieve. Zaha is definitely not Coop and Coop is definitely not Zaha.

  • studio67

    The layout plan doesn’t represent the facade at all.
    So sorry.

  • disqus_N4mZSgjeDz

    To be honest, this building is mesmerising. Totally unconventional, and that’s what makes it amazing!

    • pablo

      People are just pissed off because they do not know how to do it. Go back to your brick and mortar, and do some more boxes.

      • Gary Walmsley

        Or Pablo, they have developed an aesthetic that has otherwise eluded you.

        And I write that as someone who has a lot of enthusiasm for much of the more organic formed architecture.

  • Gary Walmsley

    The exterior looks like the evil alien’s mothership, the interior is so busy at every turn, it offers no respite.