Robert Whitlock, Inkai Mu, Sean Roche, and Grace Liao provide insight into the design concept of Lenovo’s new development in Shenzhen.
Located in the heart of the quickly growing Houhai District, Lenovo Houhai Center offers Class-A office space while making significant contributions to the city’s public realm. Two prominent office towers serve as a gateway between the nearby mountains and Shenzhen Bay waterfront, and anchor the vibrant mixed-use environment. Four members of the KPF design team, Robert Whitlock, Principal, Inkai Mu, Principal, Sean Roche, Director, and Grace Liao, Director, took part in a Q&A discussing the design at both the macro and micro scale.
What was the central idea behind your design concept?
For us, this was an opportunity to create a memorable skyline with two towers forming a gateway to Shenzhen. Following a wide-ranging process of early exploration, the final design represents a bold and dynamic architectural solution driven by innovation and functionality that is consistent with Lenovo’s core values.
The tower forms were designed as minimal orthogonal compositions that aspire for a distinctive skyline presence, but balance the need for efficient office floorplates for the development. The lower volume of each tower is oriented in an East-West direction maximizing retail podium planning flexibility and visual connectivity to the adjacent green spaces. The upper volume is rotated in the North-South direction maximizing views to Shenzhen Bay.
The composition of the rotated forms creates an understated yet powerful identity for the development, a dynamic gateway between the mountains and waterfront landscape that defines Shenzhen and a solution that represents a spirit of innovation appropriate for one of the world’s leading in technology companies.
What do you think is the biggest highlight of this project?
Breaking away from the pack of simply extruded office buildings on the waterfront, the Lenovo Towers subtlety invert your skyline expectations with their extended and cantilevered appearance at the tops of the buildings. Rotating the upper volumes of each tower creates a dramatic gateway towards the waterfront while also framing city scale vistas that provide larger sweeping views of the Shenzhen coastline. The rotation also creates a series of green spaces linking the parks on the ground plane to the podium roof gardens and the tower sky gardens. This gesture also optimizes the views and values of the upper floors while creating one of the largest sky terraces in the area. The bottom volumes of the towers oriented in the north south direction maximize visual connectivity to the parks blending between indoors and outdoors.
How does the team bring design ideas or concepts to life during the architectural design process? (Ecological demand, landscape demand, use demand, brand demand, etc.)
Lenovo is known for innovation and embracing change with a clean design aesthetic and we wanted our design to reflect these core brand values. Our design needed to stand out from the regular office buildings in its context and push boundaries of typical office tower design. We wanted a fresh look that reflected technology though an economy of means: an uncomplicated sense of design with essential timeless shapes that would be boldly sculptural in spirit while retaining functional requirements.
With this in mind, we proposed our design with its crisp prismatic tower volumes and very simple yet effective rotation creating a sculptural gateway that breaks away from the pack in the district. The composition recalls the gestural simplicity of the very best minimal art and great innovations working within technological constraints.
While most office towers choose to apply a single pattern to the façade, why would KPF opt for a metal fin with different orientations?
The interlocking composition is at the heart of the design concept for the project, and the different volumes are accentuated by the different fin angles on their respective facades. The changing fin angle across the reveal creates an increased sense of verticality on the simple form and an increased dynamism when viewed obliquely.
This level of added refinement and detail adds further clarity to the concept gently distinguishing one volume from the other. The surfaces’ varied fins viewed from different vantages reveal a constantly moving and dynamic building composition.
What other innovative practices does the Lenovo Center have in terms of structure and technology?
The primary design strategy would not be possible without the effective use of bold structural innovation. The rotation of the upper tower volume is a heroic yet simple gesture that displays dramatic cantilevers aligned with the refuge floors at the rotation. We are able to achieve these cantilevers without sacrificing valuable rentable office space. The creative blending of structure and technology is vividly expressed in the striking tower massing.
What are the sustainability design features of the project?
The numerous terraces, roof gardens and biophilic approach throughout the project are important aspects of our design. Our goal was to create an all-encompassing work environment focused on the wellness of the inhabitants. The Lenovo Houhai Center fully embraces workplace of the future concepts by interweaving nature throughout, providing a variety of outdoors spaces, operable windows for fresh air, and flexible planning.
The Lenovo Center is currently in the construction phase and is set to open in late 2021.