Vanke Future Town, China

Located by the Yunlong Lake in Xuzhou, occupying over a million square meters, the launched project Vanke Future Town is a grand community with abundant landscape resources, wherein the demonstration area, as the first set of architectures to make an entrance to the land, will set the tone for the whole ongoing project. The sales exhibition centre (which will later be converted into a community centre) is designed to be in proportion with and reflects the vast scale of Future Town and the geographical structure of the city.

Small spaces for the entrance hall, screening rooms, separate meeting rooms and rear services, etc., is compressed into the east wing, ensuring a single piece of large – scale space for exhibition in the main building. This layout has granted the main building an open floor plan to achieve the multiple functions that it requires for exhibitions and as a community centre.
The inside of the main building is a set of exceedingly complex and exquisite structure. Looking at ancient timber arch bridges, the overlapping short timbers constructing a long-span structure, the architects were smitten by the beauty of its form, scale and the wisdom of the craftsmen. They have since then been studying these traditional bridges and hand modelling their long-span structure constructed of short timbers, as a tribute to the traditional Chinese craftsmanship.

As in this project, the bridge structure is introduced into the large-scale exhibition space, as a piece of expressive element to be viewed from below, as a demonstration of Vanke’s technical strength and value. It is also reflected in the water patio in front of the main space. Moreover, the part works as a horizontal fulcrum between the upper and lower timbers in the original bridge structure is replaced by steel tubes, which now support the timbers by weaving in where they interlock together.

The authenticity of the structure and the recreation of the spatial impression have been discussed repeatedly in the studio as the project progresses. In addition, to the original proposal, the glass curtain walls with group of glass ribs was adopted, which was suspended from the timber structure ceiling (said approach was eventually replaced by the current proposal that is to support the glass curtain walls with steel studs). To achieve this vision, the requirements on the timber structure’s bearing capacity would be raised, which would lead to the significant alteration of the piece’s appearance. Therefore, the timber piece does not act as the major structure in the force bearing system. Instead, it is supported by a group of 8 steel columns and suspended from steel beams hidden in a roof above.