Setting a New Benchmark

Known as the ‘Sliced Porosity Block’, the Raffles City Chengdu project in collaboration with Steven Holl is turning heads for its cutting-edge design and impressive green features.

Issue: Mar 2009


Chengdu, known as Tian Fu Zhi Guo in Chinese – the Land of Abundance for its agricultural wealth – is known for its spicy Sichuan cuisine and the spirit of its people. Ranked China’s fourth most liveable city, it is largely overshadowed by the more glamourous Chinese metropolises of Shanghai and Beijing in terms of media exposure, but no doubt, interest in Chengdu is heightening.

Culturally-rich with temples and other historical relics dotting the landscape, the capital of the Sichuan province is not averse to embracing modern developments in its skyline. Shopping malls, hotels and offices have sprouted to cater to investors as well as business and leisure travellers who flock to Chengdu as its status as China’s political and economic centre of Western China gains clout. One of the most exciting new buildings to join the cityscape is a project by CapitaLand - Raffles City Chengdu, which is located on the former site of the Sichuan Provincial History Museum along Ren Min Nan Road, one of the city’s most established commercial, retail, dining and entertainment areas. A future subway interchange just across the road is set to bring people from the other areas of the city to this development.

Designed by internationally renowned architect Steven Holl, this massive complex comprises five high-rise towers with a gross floor area of 195,000 sq.m - divided into office space (including boutique offices), a five-star hotel, serviced apartments, and a retail mall. "This has the potential of creating an integrated urban life, a small city in itself with the provision of living, working and shopping spaces," Li Hu, Partner at Steven Holl Architects, says of Raffles City Chengdu. The project is also known as the 'Sliced Porosity Block' for its open spaces and its embracement of sunrays in its structure.

An Urban Space for All

Raffles City Chengdu is developed to maximize public open space and to stimulate micro-urbanism. Boasting a multi-level plaza in the center of the complex sculpted by stone steps, ramps, and trees, the main feature of the plaza will be the three ponds that act as skylights to the shopping space below. These ponds are inspired by a poem by Du Fu, one of China's most important poets who once resided in Chengdu, where he described how "Time has left stranded in Three Valleys."

This plaza is accessible by five openings that beckon passers-by in. "The intense urban experience comes from the porosity which allows access from multiple places, the dynamic building shape that is sliced by sunlight, and the possibility of viewing the space from different levels," Li says. The importance of public space is at the heart of the project. "The creation of an urban space downtown that is open to the public at all times is a good concept for other developments to follow."

Another highlight of the public space will be the three highly unique pavilions in the complex. The history museum pavilion, the high-tech pavilion and the Du Fu pavilion reside in carved out niches in the building's facades, and will each be designed by different parties, therefore exemplifying different philosophies.

Innovative Green Solutions

The top view reveals the beautifully sculpted multi-level plaza in the middle of the complex.

The focus on energy conservation is also one important aspect of Raffles City Chengdu. The complex has received the LEED-CS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Core & Shell) pre-certification at the Gold Level by the US Green Building Council for its impressive sustainability measures and plans.

"We are adopting a series of measures that will reduce power and fossil fuel demands," Li says. "The project draws energy from the soil thanks to hundreds of geothermal wells throughout the site. Similarly, to conserve energy in the offices, occupancy sensors will be incorporated to curb the use of artificial light." This is in addition to other energy-saving systems such as providing LED lighting and maximum exposure to natural light with the avoidance of deep spaces.

Façade-wise, the building uses fair-face concrete that eliminates the need for the typical curtainwall on most office buildings. The use of high-performance glass, 100% underground car parking and roof gardens on each tower will reduce the heat island effect. Natural ventilation and daylighting are also adopted in designated areas of the development. The total operational energy in the development is expected to be reduced by at least 20% compared with the minimum energy efficiency standard, or base requirements for buildings designed to reduce energy consumption, set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

In the area of water conservation, the development will implement rainwater collection for irrigation for the landscaped areas of the complex. Also, high-efficiency plumbing fixtures will be installed so as to reduce water use by 40% as compared with the standard set in the American Energy Policy Act-1992.

The architects chose to use local materials extensively in the construction, and adopted the use of products made with recycled materials, scoring further points for the LEED certification. The building's indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is improved with the use of low-emitting materials, and to be friendly to the ozone, the air conditioning system in Raffles City Chengdu will be free of CFC-based refrigerants.

Scheduled to open its doors in 2011, Raffles City Chengdu is indeed one of the city's most ambitious projects not just for its sculptural architecture or its phenomenology. Industry watchers, architecture fans and those who are looking to acquire one of the city’s most desirable addresses are watching with bated breath as it inches towards completion.

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