The latest in cutting-edge technology comes together with natural surroundings at the biophilic “Geek Community Project,” a massive facility for research and development proposed for the Lijia Intelligent Park in Chongqing, China. Two curved volumes arc away from each other, joined by a central atrium that acts as a hub for interaction between the building’s occupants and visitors.
Interaction is what this complex is all about, in fact, “between people, between nature and culture, and between the past and the present,” says PLP Architecture, who created the design for a competition. The 50,000-square-meter (538,000-square-foot) building aims to offer lots of opportunities for collaborators to come together inside and interface with the beautiful setting.
The circular atrium at the heart of the building is flooded with light, composed of stacked rings that connect the four main wings. It acts as a gallery, a space for “robotic performances” and product reveals, and a continuous walkway leading all the way to the roof that lets people get some exercise and engage with each other along the way.
The two main curving volumes include a taller southern structure that rises to greet visitors as they arrive and a lower northern structure that steppes down to maximize views of historic ruins adjacent to the site. Fully glazed to let in lots of sunlight, they’re also clad in shading fins to keep the building from overheating in summer and offer privacy when desired. Planted terraces at the end of each wing allow occupants to feel immersed in nature but protected from rain and wind.
“The entire design will be enabled by smart technology, ranging from BMS controls, smart access and security systems, interactivity screens, and a smart hotdesking system with digital ideation hubs,” says PLP Architecture. “The building is designed with an environmentally sensitive timber structure and has taken design cues from biophilia. These are coupled with extensive natural ventilation, use of natural light, photovoltaic panels, rainwater collection, and ecologically sensitive landscaping to help reduce environmental impact and enhance occupant well-being.”
Lijia Intelligent Park opened on August 21st, 2019 as a district devoted to “the future of smart life,” from artificial intelligence and 5G to the Internet of Things. The Chinese government launched a global design competition to develop a 40-square-kilometer area that helps establish Liangjiang as a “Smart City” full of sustainable high-tech attractions. The park is already drawing nearly 1 million visitors a year.
“On the design content, participating plans need to offer an overall urban design and landscape design for about 40 square kilometers of Lijia Yuelai Smart Park to maximize its characteristic natural endowment and historical and cultural heritage, unveil the relationship between human and landscape, explore the inner experience of people appreciating the landscape, create an ecological, comfortable, and beautiful atmosphere, realize the interaction and communication between people and landscape, and demonstrate the perfect combination of humanity and technology as well as ecology and intelligence.”
Both the contest itself and PLP Architecture’s entry illustrate the hope that we don’t have to sacrifice our natural environments to evolve our cities into a high-tech future. If carried out with sincere intentions to preserve and protect the landscape, air quality, and other key elements of healthy and sustainable development, it could become an example for the rest of the world to follow.