Tsinghua Ocean Center
Instant university towns are recent Chinese urbanization in epitome: far away from city centers, these isolated urban archipelagos are often overscaled, and lack humanistic attention and its related services. With the opportunity of designing the Tsinghua Ocean Center, a laboratory and office building for the newly established deep-ocean research base of Tsinghua University and the last building on the Shenzhen Xili University Town campus, the new building will participate in campus life with a brand-new attitude and present possibilities that rarely existed before. This is a building with an open and welcoming atmosphere, where the injected public spaces encourage all the staff and students to participate and socialize; it is a building where intelligent brains may encounter each other and interdisciplinary communication happens naturally.
The design takes the organization of public spaces within the overall campus as a starting point. Instead of terminating the campus' main axis on the plan, the building folds the axis to extend it upwards, with abundant public spaces injected along the way. The conventional quad typology for university campuses is reinterpreted here, to form a lively vertical quad system. Meanwhile, the semi-autonomous yet interdependent relationship among the research centers can be visualized in this vertical campus—a shared public level is sandwiched between every two research centers. Conference room, brainstorming area, exhibition space, study rooms, cafés and other facilities can all be found in these shared levels. Furthermore, within each research center, the labs and offices are separated by a vertical gap, with stairs connecting different horizontal and vertical public spaces together. As time goes by, the plants in these shared spaces will flourish and extend the greenery from the ground all the way up to the roof garden at 60-meter high. The roof garden has a small open air theater which will be a very special panorama viewing platform, where one may not only enjoy the views of distant mountains and changes of the sky, but also glimpses of giraffes in Shenzhen Wildlife Zoo not too far away.
Hidden underneath the entry plaza, there is a deep-sea research tank, the most unique lab of this center. Three concrete cone-shaped skylights bring natural light from different directions down to the basement, while forming abstract sculptures for the entry plaza. Round windows on the concrete walls of the meeting rooms recall those of ships. The brise soleil on the façade is organized according to “ocean” by Debussy, varying its angles to produce a symphony of light play every day. The blue soffit colors of the public floors gradually change from deep color below to lighter ones above, not unlike the ocean with different light appearances at different depth.
The architectural language of the building is born out of the local climate of Shenzhen. Abundant semi-outdoor spaces regulate the micro-climate of the building, while the thin-slab typology maximizes the potential of natural ventilation. Densely and carefully placed exterior shading device efficiently cut down the heat gain, yet still offers good views for the lab and offices. Passive strategies are adopted whenever possible to lower the energy consumption. Exposed structural concrete provides a long-lasting and maintenance-free exterior finish, in direct contrast with its stucco neighbors.
The mechanical rooms and shafts required for the laboratories, together with the vertical structural cores, are organized at both ends of the building, which then delivers the various building mechanical systems horizontally through the ceilings of the central corridor to different laboratories. This configuration leaves the research floors open and allows flexible re-partition should alternative future changes be needed. The research labs are planned according to a basic module. Offices and ancillary spaces are arranged in vicinity, to offer scientists both quietness and convenience.
Architect: OPEN Architecture
Principal in charge: Li Hu, Huang Wenjing
Project Team: Victor Quiros, Zhao Yao, Zhang Hanyang, Zhou Tingting, Yan Dihua, Zhou Xiaochen, Qiao Shawei, Zhang Chang, Qi Zhengdong, Joshua Parker, Chen Chen, Laurence Chan, Jin Boan
Local Design Institute: Shenzhen Institute of Building Research Co., Ltd
Client: Graduate School at Shenzhen, Tsinghua University
Program: Research Labs, Experimental Pools, Classrooms, Lounges, Café
Building Area: 15,884 m2
Land Area: 2,439 m2
Location: Xili University Town, Shenzhen