Dezeen Magazine

Sliced Porosity Block by Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl Architects has been commissioned to build a complex of five linked towers surrounding a public plaza in Chengdu, China.

Called Sliced Porosity Block, the buildings contain voids containing pavilions designed by Holl, American architect Lebbeus Woods and Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei.

Holl has designed the History Pavilion (below), Woods will build the High Tech Pavilion, and Wei Wei will create the Du Fu Pavilion (above).

The palaza will contain three ponds which will also function as skylights for the six-story shopping centre below. Esculators will rise out of these ponds to carry visitors to the three pavilions.

The 105,000 square feet site will incorporate offices, serviced apartments, retail, a hotel, cafes, restaurants and an open public plaza. Above: High Tech Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods.

The buildings will be heated and cooled geothermally. The design will also make use of high-performance glazing, energy-efficient equipment and regional materials.

The complex is due for completion by late 2010.

Photographs © Iwan Baan

The following information is from Steven Holl Architects:




Steven Holl Architects (SHA) has recently been commissioned by CapitaLand China to realize a large mixed-use complex in Chengdu, China. Scheduled to open in late 2010, this “giant chunk of a metropolis” houses a hybrid complex of generous public spaces flanked by five towers with offices, serviced apartments, retail, a hotel, cafes, and restaurants. The 105,000 square feet site is developed to maximize public open space and to stimulate micro-urbanism.


The ‘Sliced Porosity Block’ will be located just south of the intersection of the First Ring Road and Ren Min Nan Road. Its sun sliced geometry results from minimum daylight exposures to the surrounding urban fabric prescribed by code. Porous and inviting from every side, five vertical entrances cut through a layer of micro-urban shopping before leading to the elevated public ‘Three Valley’ plaza. A great urban terrace on the scale of Rockefeller Center, this multi-level plaza in the center of the complex is sculpted by stone steps, ramps, trees, and ponds and caters to special events or to a casual afternoon in the sun. Here the public space parallax of overlapping geometries in strict black and white is supercharged by color that glows from the shops positioned underneath the plaza.


The three generous ponds on the plaza are inspired by a poem by Du Fu (713-770), in which he describes how ‘Time has left stranded in Three Valleys’. (Du Fu was one of ancient China’s most important poets, who spent a part of his life in Chengdu). These three ponds function as skylights to the six-story shopping precinct below, and are pierced by diagonal stray escalators that thrust upwards to three ‘buildings within buildings’. Residing on voids in the facades of the sculpted blocks these pavilions are designed by Steven Holl (history pavilion), Lebbeus Woods (high tech pavilion), and Ai Wei Wei (Du Fu pavilion).


The ‘Sliced Porosity Block’ is heated and cooled geo-thermally and the large plaza ponds harvest recycled rainwater while the natural grasses and lily pads create a natural cooling effect. High-performance glazing, energy-efficient equipment and the use of regional materials are just a few of the other methods employed to reach the LEED gold rating.


The ‘Sliced Porosity Block’ is the third large urban development SHA is designing in China and led by Steven Holl and Li Hu. Currently under construction are a floating horizontal skyscraper over maximized landscape in Shenzhen, the Vanke Center, and the Linked Hybrid (Beijing), a group of eight towers and 660 geothermal wells linked by public sky-bridges, which is scheduled for completion in summer 2008. In addition to these urban projects Steven Holl Architects is currently working on the construction of the Nanjing Museum of Art & Architecture which will open in late 2008.