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Steven Holl Vanke Center-4

When tasked to design a multi-use project for the Shenzhen Vanke Real Estate Co, Steven Holl opted against tradition, and came up with a rather intriguing design – a horizontal skyscraper. Holl and his team where shackled against a 35 meter height restriction and instead of building multiple smaller building for each function, they kept them in one building and laid it on its side. In fact, if you laid the Empire State Building on its side, the two would be about the same length. On top of the unique design, the Vanke Center is slated for LEED Platinum certification and is built to withstand a tsunami, should it ever experience one.

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Located in Shenzhen, China, the roughly 440 meter long horizontal skyscraper is built upon eight stilts, propping the building up off the ground and creating a substantially large open park underneath. In case of a tsunami, the building is elevated high enough and is strong enough to let water flow underneath it unharmed. The 1,296,456 square foot building itself is mixed-use development and contains a hotel, apartments, office space, a conference center, a spa as well as public garden space with restaurants and walkways.

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Propping the building up off the ground allowed for more open space as well as better views over the lower developments of surrounding sites to the South China Sea. Under the bottom of the floating structure are hanging glass cubes, which offer visitors or employees 360 degree views of the lush tropical gardens below. Meanwhile the multiple ends of the structure each look out to a specific vista in the distance, whether it be the nearby lake, the ocean or the surrounding landscape.

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The garden itself was inspired by Roberto Burle Marx’ gardens in Brazil, and contains restaurants and cafes in vegetated mounds bracketed with pools and walkways. Breezes flowing in from the sea help to cool the gardens as well as the building, and at night the breezes carry with them the scent of jasmine accentuated by the colorful glow of the underbelly of the complex.

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Designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the Vanke Center includes many sustainable design elements. On the roof of the building, a solar photovoltaic system provides the building with 18% of its power. Inside, the doors, floors and furniture are made from a bamboo, considered a renewable resource because it grows so quickly, and the carpets are made from recycled materials. High performance glazing and the narrow design allows for a lot of natural daylight, but minimizes solar heat gain and cooling needs. The Vanke Center was recently completed in 2010 and has since been awarded 2010 Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.

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