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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dalian Center - Wolf Prix and Coop Himmelblau Starchitect in China

Dalian Convention Center by Wolf D. Prix of Coop Himmelblau.


Dalian Center - Wolf Prix

















When I was at Harvard studying Architecture - there was one architecture design professor who was bigger than life - his name was Wolf D. Prix.  I will never forget him coming to the design studio with Lebbeus Woods and inviting the whole group of us late night workers to go out for a drink together. He told wonderous stories of adventures and travails of the challenge of getting things built.  Wolf was indeed bigger than life - it makes sense that he is one of the select few Starchitects chosen to build in the great country of China.  He is building one of the largest convention centers ever - and with incredibly dymamic forms cantilevering over the massive conference halls of the Dalian International Center. There are few architects who would have the audacity to propose such an ambitious design, let alone have the where-with-all to actually build it. Wolf Prix is a revolutionary and a creative genius.  His fearless view to the future leaves us far behind in utter admiration of its sheer scale and geometric complexity. One can barely fathom how the twisted metal panels we see must have endured cost cutting, engineer vetoes and perhaps even the hammer of Thor to come to life.  Wolf Prix has shaped manifest destiny to new heights - showing us an innovative spirit that can only awe and inspire.
 - Inson Wood
The vastness of China can be witnessed from many perspectives, it is evident in maps, in its cultural make-up, its capacity for industrial output and, on a city level, in its architecture. In two cities roughly 1000 miles apart, Austrian architecture practise Coop Himmelb(l)au embarks upon separate projects which both replicate the monolithic scale of China.
The first, the Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition (MoCAPE) merges two museums into one complex touted as an ‘Urban Monolith’. The complex will occupy an entire block in the south coast city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. Spreading outwards across the cityscape MoCAPE creates a domineering presence in the predominantly high-rise district using an alternative approach to scale, using only skylighting as a source of natural light and overhangs to further enhance the dominance or the building from street level.
The Second project, a multi-use Conference Center, breaks ground in Dalian, near the south east tip of China, and echoes MoCAPE’s scale at 1million m³. Designed to “both reflect the promising modern future of Dalian and its tradition as an important port, trade, industry and tourism city” the Dalian Conference Center is associative in its architectural concept rather than pictographic, taking on the softness of form as though eroded by forces of the sea. The design incorporates a public zone with shopping at ground level and a 1,900 seat theatre and 2,500 capacity conference space situated 15m above the entrance hall as floating spaces. Smaller conference spaces are situated around this core space.
“With the Dalian International Conference Center, a hybrid city within a building will emerge,” reads the design statement. “For the technical infrastructure of the building this means, that we have to consider a huge amount of people circulating inside the building at the same time, expecting high standards in circulation and comfort as well as a state of the art building concerning high flexibility, and low energy consumption and use of other resources.” In a country with a population of approximately 1.33 billion, Coop Himmelb(l)au’s two projects offer associatively scaled architecture and importantly, cultural spaces to enjoy the fruits of Chinese productivity.