given the name “White-cloud” in Chinese because its main summit is
often covered with clouds. Not only the natural landscape, but also the
historical places on the mountain have made it the main attraction in
Guangzhou throughout history.
city of Guangzhou decided to develop a new convention centre to the
north of the down town area, on the site of the old airport, at the edge
of the historical landscape of the Baiyun Mountains. The new congress
centre would have to function as the motor of a new urban process.
Baiyun highway separates the mountain park from the new urban
development. The old villages and the new buildings coexist in a
chaotic urban conglomerate. Despite the current fragmentation of the
site, it does have enormous qualities and potential.
‘building’ that is able to act as a mediator in resolving the existing
contradictions within a creative unity and improve a democratic and
open concept that weaves nature and town, the citizens and the
institutions, into a new specific identity. Hard task indeed, but it seems this won them the project after all.
the new congress functions into a general system of open visual and
physical connections between the location of the future city centre and
the mountain park. Their desire was not building a new barrier, but to
accompany the gentle movement of the mountain into the city. Existing
“classical” congress centres are usually more or less designed as”black
boxes” or as big “meeting machines” without a soul. Most of these could
be placed anywhere, as they are indifferent to their local context.
Such concepts, however, become more and more obsolete as they are too
static and cannot successfully respond to the future challenges of the
“interactive” multi-purpose infrastructure able to adapt to the various demands both of international and local
markets. From a broad sustainability point of view, a congress centre
should be anchored in its local context and emphasize its specific
identity. At the same time, it should project a clear image of welcome
and efficiency that is legible for visitors of all cultures. This is
where global and local should melt into a new unity. Moreover, the
combination of efficiency with an interesting and attractive local
cultural environment should meet the demands of a meeting place with an
original character based on a lasting human scale. For this reason, the
concept proposed was based on open, modular and flexible spaces
connected by secured and efficient circulation systems merged in a
unique combination of nature and town. They remade the congress centre as
a living and unforgettable “place of experience”.
principle of the project is the merging of landscape and building. The
‘fingers of nature’ are penetrating the building site. This
relationship between the lower town area and the upper mountain area
has a double aspect.
to maintain openness, and in doing so accentuate the presence of the
mountain in the city. For these reasons the project was developed
as horizontally as possible, with separate east-west oriented volumes.
Four eco-bridges (for nature, not cars or people) cross the Baiyun Road (highway) and heal the physical
fracture between the mountain and the plain. The design places the
new buildings at the far east side of the site, next to the highway, so
as to achieve visibility along the main entrance road to the city
while, at the same time, allowing the creation of a large public space
along the East Jichang road.
construction grid, to guarantee economical and technical feasibility.
Next, some simple transformations were introduced, integrating indoor
and outdoor spaces within the same movement. The result is an overall
unity in a flowing form, creating a dynamic image in which “nothing
stays immobile”. In keeping with this flowing character, various
materials are used to create a new unified “landscape”.
south and west façades are clad with local historical stone of quartz sandstone with small window strips, improving the
climatic performance of the building in the subtropical Chinese
climate. The northern façades are very transparent, keeping the indoor
and outdoor spaces in close contact.
functional areas are logically grouped through a combination of
horizontal and vertical functional modules. The horizontal modules are
grouped in a two-story base. They house the general services: the
entrance halls, the main foyers, the general catering services
(kitchens and restaurants), the multifunctional exhibition and banquet
halls, a VIP-area, the offices for management and supervision, the
media-centre and the main circulatory connections. The vertical
modules consist of five blocks housing specialized activities. Each of
these can function independently or be linked to the others (through
the horizontal base).
The congress centre is housed within the three
central blocks. The northern block includes an exclusive meeting hall
and an auditorium that seats 2500 people. The central block houses the mid sized halls, and the southern block the halls for 1000 and for 500
people. The hotels are located in the end-buildings, with 500 rooms
in the northern building and 600 rooms in the southern block. They are
linked to the congress centre at ground level and at roof level. They
house restaurants and bars, dance halls, clubs, business centres,
The building was made in collaboration with:
Design Institute of CITIC (China) in architectural design,
Laurent Ney & Partners in structural design,
Ingenium nv in technical design,
Daidalos for energy and acoustics,
TTAS bvba for technical theatre design,
Denis Dujardin, Stefaan Thiers for landscape design,
Van Santen & Ass. (France) for façade engineering,
Lens°Ass for interior design.
The building received the award for best civic architecture building at the World Architecture Festival 2008 in Barcelona.
Photography by Philippe van Gelooven