BEIJING – Mark’s fifty-first issue featured interviews with four architects who painted a bleak portrait of contemporary Chinese architecture. High-speed, high-rise development in cities like Beijing is producing a formulaic architecture that is visually and philosophically stagnant. SPARK, an international firm with offices in London, Singapore, Beijing, and Shanghai, has higher aspirations for its projects in China. The architects hope their latest mixed-use design, located near Beijing’s Fourth Ring Road, will serve as a reminder that ‘depth of experience need not be forgotten despite the speed of the city’s expansion’.
Jing Mian Xin Cheng is a complex consisting of two office towers that sit atop a retail podium. The architects use words like ‘pleated’ and ‘woven’ to describe the towers’ textured façades, which are an homage to a textile market that once occupied the site. ‘The pleating and weaving effects emerged from visualising the façades as pieces of three-dimensional fabric rather than paper-thin curtain walls,’ says SPARK Director Jan Felix Clostermann. ‘The façade engages with interior space by sculpting new habitable zones at the building’s edge.’
The fabric-like exterior offers some practical benefits too. Clostermann adds that the texture, which dissolves into a flat, glassy curtain wall with height, ‘baffles traffic noise from the ring road and offers a level of acoustic protection to the interior’. The façade’s depth also creates new sites for natural ventilation and for an elaborate exterior lighting scheme that makes the textile-inspired texture stand out at night.