Home to the stunning West Lake and a thriving cultural and creative scene, Hangzhou will soon have a daring new skyscraper to call a landmark. Dubbed “In Hangzhou,” the new structure designed by Canadian firm B+H Architects is a mixed-use development that includes residences, a mall, and a boutique hotel overlooking the Qiantang River. In Hangzhou is located in Hangzhou’s Qianjiang New Town on the east side of the river within an evolving central business district. Overall, Hangzhou is a growing luxury tourism destination in China, and has gained significant attention as it prepares to host the G20 summit next month.
In Hangzhou is one in a stream of new high-end openings in the city in recent years. Executive vice-president of B+H Asia David Stavros says the structure serves to show people on the other side of the river that “something special was happening.”
B+H has more than two decades of experience designing buildings in China’s fast-developing cities, and boasts a diverse portfolio. Accomplishments include hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai’s Pudong district, and office projects with Alibaba, Tencent, and Microsoft China. As the company moves into designing projects for China’s healthcare market with hospitals and senior care facilities in the works, Jing Daily caught up with Stavros via email to find out more about In Hangzhou and how luxury architecture has evolved over the years.
Tell us more about In Hangzhou and what the building will be used for.
The programming for In Hangzhou is very ambitious. It calls for a mixed-use development on a long and narrow site. It encompasses residential, commercial, and office spaces, as well as a hotel that will operate on the upper levels. This programming is reflective of the overall visions for this project, which was to cultivate a new active place that can survive the market trends on the other side of the river.
The buildings that surround this project are fairly stoic. The architecture consists of variations of the basic rectangle. Our client wanted to break free of those parameters by distinguishing his building with bold design. Our challenge was to utilize design in a way that would enable a variety of uses, without compromising on aesthetics, or the architectural narrative of the building.
How does this project differ from your other projects in China?
Despite the variety of forms and sectors, all of B+H’s work in China flows from the same themes: marrying innovative design with local context and culture while delivering the highest standards of building performance and sustainability.
Before we even started working the building’s design, we were focused on developing a narrative that weaved in local inspirations and influences and Chinese storytelling with our clients’ vision. What is unique about this project is distinct relationship it has with the Qiantang River.
How much does this project take on Chinese elements and inspiration?
In its purest form, In Hangzhou plays homage to the moon and the role it plays in the creation of the much-celebrated annual tide at Qiantang River. The building’s unique shape is a three-dimensional interpretation of moonlight reflecting on the river’s surface—the serrated edges of the building symbolizing moonlight playing off the water.
How will this new structure change the landscape of Hangzhou, and what do you hope to achieve in terms of what it brings to the city both in terms of aesthetics and functionality?
The long-narrow nature of the build-site is what determined the orientation alongside the river and influenced the overall design, taking its current form from an initial sketch of the project. As stated, this building, with its unique two-tower design that is joined along the top, is purposefully intended to stand out from its immediate surroundings.
The complexity of vehicle circulation demanded a resolution that was simple and functional. For example, distinct drop-offs for different building components was never compromised. Likewise, pedestrian accessibility, safety, and engagement with the river were enhanced.
Its purpose is to offer a bold statement in a new city that captures the gaze of those across the river in Hangzhou and echoes the lunar calendar.
How does your work and application of architecture in China differ from that of your work in other countries?
In general, B+H’s work follows the same set of principals. It doesn’t matter if we design an office building in Toronto or a hotel in Dubai; B+H emphasizes innovative design, sustainability, and technically complex buildings that pioneer industry standards across the globe.
That said, our projects in China have tended to be among are most design-forward buildings. B+H has cultivated a reputation as an ambitious, design-led firm in China, and I think that stems from our clients, and their ambitions for these projects.
Our clients are forward thinkers that are willing to explore opportunities that push the boundaries and stimulate the architectural conversation.
What are some key architectural and design trends in China you’re noticing right now?
Certainly the trend that has gotten the most attention is this move away from what some have referred to as “weird architecture.” But the trends that we have come across more readily involve a heightened awareness around building performance and sustainability and the impact buildings have on the local context and our day-to-day live/work activities. Indoor air quality, emissions control, performance monitoring—these are areas that have become points of emphasis for a large cross section of our projects in China. Our climate is dictating an urgent narrative that can’t be ignored any more.