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SWA Group：Rapid urbanization is encroaching upon and drastically shrinking Guangzhou’s cultural landscape, making the question of how to integrate the city’s unique authenticity into the international business scene crucial. Vanke brought SWA on board to help answer this question and to realize their vision for the site Guangzhou Siyou Center – a roughly 3.6-acre office project — in an extremely limited time frame addressing a very small space.
▽项目与周边环境鸟瞰 Eye view and surrounding environment
Once SWA’s designers understood the project’s location and surrounding conditions, we were even more excited about this collaboration. The site is the last core piece of land in the Tianhe district of Guangzhou, adjacent to the Pearl River and its riverfront green space, where the tradition of “dragon boat” racing has been an important part of theculture. It is also across the river from Ersha Island, with a prime river view toward the middle of the city and a distant view of the Canton Tower. There are many landmark and famous buildings close by, including the Guangzhou Grand Theatre and International Finance Center. We also bore in mind the owner’s vision for the site – a landscape design with both international and domestic aesthetics. It became one of SWA’s challenges to integrate these two seemingly different perspectives within such a limited site: designing for the most characteristic, yet simplest spatial and landscape experience. As designers, we understand that simplicity often requires more extensive research and coordination than complexity.
▽场地区位图 Site Location
Guangzhou Avenue is the main western façade of the project and the main artery of the city. The eastern side of the site, on Huaxun Street, is the main pick-up and drop-off area for the tower users, adjacent to a tree-lined, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood street. Although the scale and function of the streetscapes on both sides are different, they are both main arrival spaces for pedestrian flow. The architecture consists of two towers, with the space in between forming a magnetic public realm and acting as an axial space linking the east-west streets. The form of the buildings is dominated by cascading horizontal lines, with the rooftops and podium setbacks maximizing views towards the Pearl River.
▽场地分析动图 Site analysis GIFs
水与洲的山水画意 Water and Oases: A Scenic Painting
The Pearl River is the largest waterway in China’s Lingnan Region, and has been of great significance for transport and trade since ancient times. Because it flows into the sea, the Pearl River’s significance has even broader significance within Lingnan culture. The design for Siyou Vanke Center uses water and oases as foundational concepts, reflected in elements from paving to water features, and from benches to trees: all of which “speak the language” of water. The river’s surface is mirror-like when the sky is clear, but emanates layered ripples with the passage of wind or watercraft. Its overall impression imparts a rare atmosphere of peace and relaxation in a busy city.
涟漪般的基底 Ripples as Canvas
The design uses ripples as the main paving concept, with gray stripes spreading out in layers from the building boundary at the center. This approach, in turn, echoes the cascading form of the architecture and mimics “ripples” from the buildings in water. The flow, spacing, and white space of the stripes also complements other landscape elements, helping to guide people through the site.
▽铺装设计分析 Pavement design analysis
▽层层泛起的地面铺装涟漪 Layer upon layer of ground pavement ripples
The sliced texture of the paving also echoes the horizontal angles of the layers of the buildings, further articulating the shadows that give the site its unique undertone. The trees’ dynamic shade is also projected onto the paving, and changes with the angle of the sun. Visitors can look up to enjoy leaves dancing against the blue sky, and also look down to appreciate shade merging with the pavement. The overall impression is of both softness and rigidity.
双塔之间的水中轴 Water Axis between the Towers:
流动的波纹造型水景 Flowing, Waveform Water Feature
The main water feature is at the intersection of Guangzhou Avenue and the axis of the two towers. Before SWA attempted to design this node, we determined that only a distinctive water feature could enhance the overall tone of the site. Inspired by the architectural vocabulary and established paving language, we started from the concept of a simple, flat rectangle, reminiscent of a mirror, to complement the buildings’ façade and interstitial space. The “flat water” is tilted at a slight angle, mimicking the waves raised by a boat sailing through. Meanwhile, the rippled lines of the pavement scatter and collide at the bottom of the feature, blending with the surrounding rippled pavement while making it clearer and softer in sunlight.
▽艺术水景 Artistic waterscape
The design makes full use of the location of the water feature, so that the view in every direction presents a different form. The rectangular shape of the sculpture matches the “layered” sensibility of Vanke Center’s architecture, while its raised corner makes the water a more vivid focus for the plaza.
▽水景供水排水系统方案示意图 Water Supply and Drainage System Diagram
This water feature’s elegant form and high-precision construction extends to the reflective element on its central axis. It was designed in “dialogue” with the adjacent dragon-boat-inspired benches to maximize the effect of the rippling pavement. By drawing on the core idea of boating and “river meeting sea,” all of the landscape elements work in symbiosis.
静止的镜面水景 Calm Reflective Pool
While boats sail through a flowing waterscape – even when wind and wave conditions are calm – they disrupt the water surface. In Siyou Vanke Center’s central square, between its towers, SWA inserted a reflective pool as a transition between indoors and outside. By adding an intersecting landscape element between the north and south buildings, this water feature also cleverly solved the space limitation caused by the site’s fire escape and strengthens the influence of the central water axis.
龙舟文化的传承与再现 Inheriting and Reinterpreting Dragon Boat Culture
Derived from the enduring cultural significance of the Dragon Boat Festival in many parts of Guangdong, the custom of “eye-dotting” for dragon boats (signifying the “reawakening” of each vessel for racing season) is still celebrated. In the hinterland of the Pearl River Delta and the water township of Lingnan, with its intertwined river network, dragon boat teams from all over the world have been passing on this folklore in the form of “jousting,” in which two vessels go “head-to-head” in an attempt to displace each boat’s coxswain. At Siyou Vanke Center, this tradition, which celebrates athleticism and centuries of waterway transport and has been represented in classical landscape painting, makes its way across the Guangzhou Bridge into the middle of a bustling city. Early cultural heritage and modern high-rise buildings meet… with design elements that figuratively bring them together.
龙舟造型坐凳 Seating Inspired by Dragon Boat Forms
In the midst of urban hustle and bustle, the landscape design team wanted to present the relaxation of rafting on the river. Dragon boats from the Siyou Village have always been an important symbol for Guangzhou, carrying unique cultural significance and community memory. Because of these connotations, SWA used the concept of the dragon boat to create a series of benches, with one or both ends slightly curving upwards – like the “head and tail” (prow and stern) of a dragon boat sitting above water.
The design team intended that the physical form of the benches or “boats” would encourage strangers in the city to sit closer together. The prow of each bench is also engraved with an abstracted dragon, quietly conveying the sentiment of the site and adding to its soothing sense of spirituality and history.
▽龙舟坐凳设计轴侧图 Dragon Boat Bench Concept Diagram
同时，我们还在坐凳的下方铺设了LED灯，浅蓝色的氛围灯光既满足了夜晚照明的需求，也暗示了 “泛舟于市” 的龙舟概念。龙舟座椅与林荫树阵都严格遵照的建筑的模数，与建筑的网格进行呼应，形成十分结构化的空间，不仅形成秩序感，也保证了从广州大道望向本项目的通透视野。
Blue, ambient LEDs underneath the benches both meet the needs of night lighting and suggest the concept of “boating in the city.” With both the dragon boat benches and the shade trees’ arrangement echoing the grid of their corresponding buildings, the landscape is a very structured space, which creates a sense of order… and ensures a transparent view from Guangzhou Avenue towards the project.
留住原有行道树的雕塑种植池 Sculptural Planters Preserve Original Street Trees
To preserve the original lush urban street trees on site, SWA designed a sculptural planter of appropriate height – once again using the curved prow of a dragon boat as our model. In this way, we are preserving the cultural memory of Guangzhou Avenue and welcoming once-isolated trees back into the site.
如舟之楫的流动水柱 Oar-Like Columns of Falling Water
On the west side of the north tower, people entering and leaving Vanke Center or passing by on the sidewalk will see a water column inspired by a boat’s oar. Visitors can see a constant flow of water and faintly hear a sound reminiscent of oars paddling across the river in streamlined, twisting columns. The vertically falling water curtain also provides opportunities for public recreation and interaction. Together with the other water features at Siyou Vanke Center, these unique water columns not only indicate spatial boundaries, but also make the corners of the site more vivid.
▽立柱水景设计示意图 Water Column Design Concept
临江的铜制座椅区 Copper Seating Area Facing the River
The design of the seating area on the site’s south side follows directly from the green axis of Riverfront Boulevard, forming a shaded pedestrian space where people can sit opposite one another and watch the flow of people coming and going. Stones, copper planters, and teakwood benches again echo the design elements and tones of dragon boats, while adding a different texture. This human-scaled space for office workers to rest, socialize, or lunch together softens the formal “coldness” of the surrounding, imposing architecture. A purple trumpet tree grove is a charming urban landscape during the winter on Riverfront Boulevard, offering a variety of experiences within this small area no matter when the flowers bloom or fall.
For SWA, a successful design comes from a constant process of editing…and repeated subtraction. With Guangzhou Siyou Vanke Center, from the very beginning of the design until the final construction adjustment, we were constantly encouraged to present our concept with more complete and coherent principles – which often meant “subtracting” from our original design ideas. We were delighted to collaborate with the client and owner Vanke, who granted us a lot of trust. Thanks to that partnership, we agreed on a design that was effective, but not redundant. Our joint conclusion? Landscape design benefits from “editing.”
“Boating in the city” represents the exchange that landscape can offer between fast-paced urban life and older, more nature-based ideals. The shores of the Pearl River were once Guangzhou’s rich spiritual homeland; here, we reintroduced water in the middle of the city. We turned our faces to the breeze, raised the oars, and let the elements of the river, dragon boat culture, and wind become the soul of Siyou Vanke Center. This is where people can sit quietly and leisurely. Friends can chat, children can play, office workers can transition slowly from their offices to the lively streets… and the alternately mirror-like and rippled surface of the Pearl River can come to life.
SWA San Francisco: Ye Luo, Kuan Gao, Lucky Li, Bingyao Zhu, Travis Theobald, Ray Zhao
Project Name: Guangzhou Siyou Vanke Center
Project Location: Yuexiu District, Guangzhou, Guangdong
Client: Guangzhou Vanke Real Estate Co. Ltd
Design Area: 14,000m2
SWA San Francisco: Ye Luo, Kuan Gao, Lucky Li, Bingyao Zhu, Travis Theobald, Ray Zhao
Water Feature Sculpture: Sushui Design, UAP
Landscape Construction and Lighting Refinement:
Shenzhen Benmodu Landscape Design., Ltd
Landscape Construction: Guangzhou Pubang Landscape Architecture Co., Ltd
Project Videography & Photography：Chill Shine
审稿编辑: 王琪 Maggie
更多 Read more about: SWA Group