Second Stage of Hangzhou Yunqi Town Exhibition Centre / Zhejiang University Urban-Rural Planning&Design Institute
Zhejiang University Urban-Rural Planning&Design Institute
Yunqi Town, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Adjacent Design, Zhejiang University Urban-Rural Planning&Design Institute
Zhejiang Province Institute of Architectural Design and Research
Di Ma, Xin Jin, Lianping Mao
Zhejiang Provincial Yijian Construction Group LTD.
Sheng Jiang, Jialiang Zhang, Weifen Shen, Shang Wang, Mengjun Mao
Jian Jiao, Yunjun Lu, Wuqiang Feng, Guozhi Peng
Text description provided by the architects. The project lies in the birthland of this characteristic town – Yunqi Town, Hangzhou. To actively embrace imagination, a once unfinished industrial park has now become a technology hub of cloud computing, big-data and artificial intelligence. The ‘Yunqi Conference’ held in autumn every year has become the largest scientific and technological fiesta. Oddly, the conference was held outdoors several years in a roll simply because of the ‘impropriety’ of available venues.
Of course, by no means does ‘impropriety’ suggest those venues were inferior in terms of size or grade, it’s just that the conference founders didn’t want people’s imagination to be constrained by a venue. Therefore, as the designers of the exhibition center, we tended not to follow past experience or the ‘desire to go big’. We want to make breakthroughs from its origin instead of constructing another generic exhibition center.
By nature, an exhibition center is a vehicle for urban cultural life. In fact, exhibition centers in China tend to adopt a pompous design, being pinned with the hope that dimensions and unique looks could fully highlight the ambition of a city. However, from the perspective of an individual, these features often intimidate and discourage people.
Therefore, in the process of designing the first-stage of Yunqi Exhibition Center in 2015, we came up with an atypical exhibition center design that abandoned specific models and so-called sense of ceremony. We contrast the refreshingly concise exterior with a blurred boundaries, which opened up the space and made it accessible for everyone.
The free and open experiences epitomize the town’s atmosphere, giving every visitor a sense of belonging and joy. In leisure time, large numbers of people come here every day to take a walk, rest, meet up and play around. Everywhere you can see their presence. There are even spontaneous shows going on. Therefore, the building turned from a makeshift structure (from design to completion it took only three months, original plan was to tear it apart afterwards) into a permanent building representing the entrepreneurial spirit of the town.
Two years later, in 2017, due to the increased scale of ‘Yunqi Conference’, a three-times larger second-stage Yunqi exhibition center was to be constructed opposite to the first-stage structure. Just when everyone expected an even larger ‘iconic’ building, we designed it as a short ‘3D park’. There was no modelling to begin with. It didn’t even strike people as a building. The plan caused instant controversy and opposition. However, hidden behind it was our reimagination of urban large-scale public building design paradigm, which had already gone above and beyond an exhibition center itself.
Today, almost every city owns an exhibition center, which requires the support of a huge amount of urban resources. However, only few people know that even the busiest exhibition centers merely have a usage rate of 40%, meaning that they lie idle at least 200 days a year. The usage rate of most other exhibition centers is below 10%.
On the other side, the inertial thinking and typical characters of traditional exhibition centers make them hard to be utilized in any other ways, causing a huge waste of resources invisibly. As such, we start to question ourselves: is it possible to facilitate ordinary people’s life on the premise of fulfilling the original functions of an exhibition center? Can higher resource utilization rate be achieved, by sharing the same body with other types of urban public facilities or by integration of some sorts?
Consequently, we first decided to reduce the building’s huge size, in order to dampen its ‘aggressiveness’, compressing this 66,000 square meters mega-structure to merely 6.6 meters tall. It presents itself as a huge low rooftop covered in lawn, giving it as low a profile as possible and attracting people to approach it.
All around the building sit a multitude of gentle grassy slopes, and thus the whole roof appears to be an extension of the horizon, openly welcoming people to walk onto the rooftop. In comparison to raising up the building and returning the bottom level to the public in the first-stage design, the second stage design returns all the land occupied by the building to the public, in a more intriguing and environmentally-friendly ‘3D park’ manner.
Looking at both designs, one is ‘light’ and the other is ‘heavy’. People enter from the bottom of one building, then exit on top of the other without realizing it. A harmonious and interesting dialogue is thusly initiated at the same site.
In order to control the height of the roof so that people can easily access, the design embedded one-third of the 9-meter-high exhibition hall underground, which makes people walk down when entering the venue. This has created a strong contrast from the ceremonial large step of the previous convention centers. The building almost filled the entire second phase due to the low building height, and both building density and greening ratio break through the existing design specifications (even if the roof was covered with green land, it could only convert 20% of the total greening demand). This idea has once again suffered a huge controversy, and for several times we were asked to overthrow and redo the building.
Fortunately, this era is open to imagination, so as the various government departments of Yunqi Town, Xihu District and Hangzhou City. They are willing to accept the imagination and listen to the architect’s ideas, even more willing to create greater benefits for people’s lives. Under the concerted efforts, this “death-penalty” plan passed the various approvals in a reasonable and compliant manner.
The rooftop isn’t just a park. We also introduced ten-odd types of fun-having facilities such as football field, watchtower, sand pit, studio theatre, roller skating platform, community vegetable garden, pavilion and hopscotch, all of which are joined by a 760 meters long winding rooftop runway. All these seemingly non-exhibition-center-related designs attract numerous top-level conferences to be held here. On some ordinary days, large numbers of people come here to exercise, rest and play around. With spontaneous community activities such as township concert, football match, carnival and marathon going on, the exhibition center has become the place for workers and inhabitants of the town on a daily basis.
We also preinstalled a large number of ports beneath the lawn. Should people possess interesting ideas, they can simply uncover the lawn and plug in like LEGO. The free development of the building and activities taking place here can both benefit from this. We wish this building would never limit the imagination of its users.
Today everyone is talking about interconnecting and sharing, but it appears that all the connections are virtual connections, and all the sharings are alternate sharings. We are living in an age of extremely advanced social networking, but the opportunities for people to truly get to know each other are fewer and fewer. We are in an age of ‘universal interconnection’, and we are ignoring the quintessential interconnection——interconnection between people. We wish to design this attractive open place to encourage people to get out of their home and their office and come to this park to embrace nature. We wish people could meet here and develop all sorts of interesting stories.
The rooftop park extends all the way to the sink-style square at the main entrance, in conjunction with half-enclosing stairs, creating a round-the-clock studio theatre.
In the corner, previously monotonous freight ramp has been redesigned into an undulated origami shape. People utilize it in all sorts of ways – a roller-skate platform for the youngsters or a slide for kids.
The interior of the building no longer serves solely as an exhibition hall. Through integration of space and functions, we confer upon it a new property – ‘Sports Warehouse’. In absence of a conference, the exhibition hall can be immediately transformed into facilities for a series of sports such as basketball, badminton, table tennis, fitness training and etc., with the addition of closet, showering and professional mechanical/electrical equipment, making it a hustling and bustling place every day. So much so that the demand is well in excess of its capacity.
This is an unprecedented trial. Although it is roughly the same place and construction scale, the end result is not only an exhibition center but also the first public park and stadium for the town. Furthermore, it injects new vitality and infinite possibilities into the town. Looking back on the whole design, it has neither eye-catching exterior, nor complex and costly technique, nor obscure and esoteric ideas. The open, compound and civic design alone makes it the most popular place in town, maximizing the public value of urban resources behind the building. The design is an active imagination of and bold attempt at the urban public building design paradigm under the requirements of the new era. The project has come a long way, here is our special thanks to all the decision-makers and participants for your understanding, support and industrious contribution.