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Sponsored feature: GKD textile skin becomes the symbol of social networks

Gkd golden metal fabric comprising cables, tubes, and wires

Architectural practice NBBJ has used a GKD golden metal fabric comprising cables, tubes and wires for its Shenzhen HQ for internet giant Tencent

Architects from NBBJ designed the new HQ of Chinese internet giant Tencent as a statement of networking. The golden metal fabric from GKD used in the lobby and atrium of the spectacular building in Shenzhen has become the corporate group’s representative business card. 

With the Tencent Seafront Towers, the architects from NBBJ created a vertical interpretation of the US campus idea. Two skyscrapers made of glass and steel – connected via copper-colored pedestrian bridges – resemble two robots hugging one another.

These sky-bridges are called links and truly live up to their name, as they make social networking a reality for the 12,000 employees at the HQ by providing an interconnected location for communication, collaboration, and inspiration. This is a place where people meet, chat, build relationships, and learn new things.

A clever elevator system regularly carries all employees to these meeting areas, including everyone ascending from the large lobby. The architects designed this as the link between the inside and outside world. Open on two sides, it is a passage that connects two districts and therefore gets a lot of use by the general public. Spanning five floors and with a gigantic glass roof, this vibrant meeting place is flooded with light and invites people to stop and chat.

The soft golden tone of the fabric lends a pleasant sense of warmth to the cool grey marble flooring and walls

The view from here stretches into the open atrium of the three upper floors and from there to the comings and goings in the entrance area. A golden net, comprising 1,850m² of metal fabric, frames this perfectly. Its structure is reminiscent of the spectacular façade of the Kunsthalle Mannheim museum of modern and contemporary art in Germany. It combines cables, wires, and tubes to create a texture that makes the character of the fabric sensually perceptible despite the colossal dimensions of the hall.

The special fabric developed for Tencent draws this effect from its unusual structure, for which GKD interwove golden-anodised aluminium wires and tubes into three-wire warp wire groups made of untreated stainless steel at various pitches.

To ensure that the golden membrane delivered the requisite stability despite the various weft wire thicknesses, the differences in tension were equalised using special weaving techniques. The soft golden tone of the fabric connects with the colours of the wood and ceiling coverings in the atrium, lending a pleasant sense of warmth to the cool grey marble flooring and walls of the lobby.

The complex installation of the special fabric once again required the keen expertise of GKD. The challenge here was to make the tubes in the panels sit perfectly flush to guarantee an end-to-end textile look and feel. The 16.5m-high installation acts as a shimmering backdrop for social interaction among staff at Tencent and as an eloquent ambassador of the company core.