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Newcomer Synthesis wins huge Chinese job

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Emerging London and Los Angeles-based practice Synthesis Design + Architecture has won an invited competition to design a 180,000m² mixed-use office, hotel, retail and entertainment district in Shanghai, Chin

The firm worked with Shenzhen General Institute of Architectural Design and Research Co on the bid for the $250 million (£158 million) Shanghai Wuzhou International Plaza scheme.

The Urban Canyon concept beat invited entries by GMP (Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner), Shanghai Xi Jie Design Institute and the Shanghai Dushi Architectural Design Institute.

The architect’s view

Inspired by traditional Chinese concepts of Yin and Yang, the ‘Urban Canyon’ is organized as two nested rock-like volumes which have been broken apart to reveal a flowing canyon condition which connects the project to the urban fabric of the city. The northern block features an enclosed 4 story luxury retail shopping podium anchored by the corporate headquarters of developer Hong Kong Wuzhou International Group and a 5 star
hotel tower. The southern block is composed of a 4 level retail, lifestyle and entertainment complex anchored by two office towers. The fluid canyon condition connects the two entry plazas of the site with a ‘river’ of free-standing detached retail units with a network of connective sky bridges, while simultaneously curating a series of framed views within the site. A series of green space “islands” are distributed within the river to
provide natural shading and to soften the urban condition.

At the mouth of each canyon is a landscaped entry plaza framed by the portal created by its respective towers. Integrated landscaping, furnishings, and lighting within the plaza hard-scape are arranged in pulse like formations which stimulate and encourage visual and pedestrian activity.
The dynamic patterning of the plaza is further expressed in the striated articulations that define the pattern of the cladding. This pattern embodies the pulses of activity and urban energy of the city to merge façade with roof and podium with tower, which is conceptualized as the river that has carved the canyon. The façade is to be clad with RHEINZINK standing-seam titanium zinc panels, while the roof system utilizes RHEINZINK
double standing-seam titanium zinc panels. The roof area is equipped with interior gutters at its lowest points and is covered with perforated standing-seam profiles to protect it from soiling. The building material needs no maintenance because of the material’s patina, which develops during the course of natural weathering and protects it from corrosion. The patina is a layer of zinc carbonate, which regenerates itself.


Project data

Status: Invited Competition - first place
Client: Hong Kong Wuzhou International Group Co., Ltd.
Location: Shanghai, China
Program: Mixed-use office, hotel, retail, entertainment and lifestyle development
Area: 180,000m²
Project Budget: $250,000,000 (US)
Design Team: Synthesis Design + Architecture (Design Architect), Shenzhen General Architectural Design Institute (executive architect); structural engineer, MEP; OneView CG (Visualization)
Project Credits: Alvin Huang, AIA (Design Principal), Chia-ching Yang, Joseph Sarafian, David O Wolthers


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