Sanlitun North Site, West Building, Beijing – LOT-EK (Ada Tolla + Giuseppe Lignano)

Sanlitun North is located in Sanlitun, one of the neighborhoods in central Beijing that are undergoing fast and radical transformation. It is part of a large commercial development with Master Plan by Kengo Kuma, matured within a larger governmental aim to retrofit the Chinese capital with retail and office space.

Kuma’s Master Plan conceives an internal pedestrian piazza surrounded by four large building; each building is developed by a different architecture firm, including LOT-EK, SHoP Architects, BMA/Beijing Mastubara Architect and KKAA/Kengo Kuma & Associates.

The site, within the Embassy District, has a height restriction of four levels above ground. Such restriction forced the master plan and the individual buildings to deviate from the typical vertical solutions of contemporary construction in China and to engage relevant urban issues such as density and enclosed public space.

LOT-EK’s building defines the entire west side of this new public urban space. The building houses primarily high-end retail on the lower levels along with restaurants and office suites on the higher floors. Facing the pedestrian piazza, the building elevation is conceived as a three-dimensional billboard to be filled with the graphics and logos of the future retail tenants; its articulation relates to the trajectories of pedestrian movement and views through the landscape of the piazza and its surrounding buildings.

Referencing a building under construction, a layer of blue metal mesh, supported by a cantilevered scaffolding-like structure, wraps around the entire building. Offset from the building, the mesh performs as a second skin buffering the city noise level and filtering direct sunlight for energy efficiency.

Large extrusions pierce this metal mesh layer and bend left-right in varying angles. Made out of stainless steel with large glazed fronts, these extrusions refer to large “air ducts” protruding out of the building mass; they extend the interior space/program over/onto the piazza functioning as entrances, display windows or billboards for the stores on the lower levels and as oversized bay windows for the offices above. At night, the extrusions become light boxes with white LED frames and float over the glowing blue mesh.


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