by Ian Volner | Friday, August 26, 2011
The mixed-use Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China opened to much fanfare in 2009, with architect Steven Holl and his self-titled firm garnering accolades the world over for their so-called “horizontal skyscraper.” Now, The Chicago Athenaeum has joined the laudatory chorus, as the design museum is giving its vaunted American Architecture Award for “the best of new architecture and urban design” to Holl’s team and their groundbreaking scheme.
The Center is a mixed-use building that combines over a million square feet of offices, residences, and hotel rooms on an expansive, 60,000-acre site. Hoisted off the ground on vast pillars, the structure comes in at just under the area’s mandated 35-meter height restriction, hovering over lush gardens that are visible to occupants through windowed boxes projecting from the underbelly of the building. It’s an approach that takes the greatest advantage of the views to the adjacent South China Sea, maximizes the volume of interior space, and preserves the landscape below — traversed by winding paths — for the enjoyment of visitors and employees.
The building is also among the first to qualify for LEED platinum certification in China.
The jury that awarded this year’s prize convened in Vancouver, Canada, and included members Roger Hughes of firm Hughes Condon Marler and Patricia Paktau of Paktau Architects.