Video: A Tale of Tier Two Cities

Architecture in China's Tier 2 and 3 Cities

China’ urban population is exploding, not only in its famous Tier 1 metropolises – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen – but also in smaller Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. These locations pose a challenge: how does one design vital, architecturally sophisticated urban places with a simplicity of means?

We shared some of our strategies for Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) 9th World Congress, held in Shanghai on September 20,2012.

In these developing markets, designing with simplicity yields important benefits. First, ease of constructability accommodates local construction trades that may have varying capabilities. Second, it speeds completion: essential in competitive, rapidly urbanizing markets.

Along with our partner Jimmy Cheung, President of Eton Properties, we presented three projects NBBJ and Eton are developing in Xiamen, Shenyang, and Dalian. Each exemplifies our approach to creating a sense of place using architecturally sophisticated simplicity.

Xiamen Eton Center

At Xiamen Eton Center, the retail and hotel/ballroom programs are split in half and divided amongst two separate towers, connected by pedestrian bridges. These linkages encourage people to traverse between buildings, and their movement, apparent to the street and surrounding buildings, brings a sense of dynamism to the public spaces.

Architecturally, the buildings have a “thick” facade: deep extrusions shade the interior from Xiamen’s strong sunlight and also conceal the A/C units. The horizontal banding gives the development a strong presence on the skyline, even as it eliminates the visual “clutter” of mechanical systems.

Shenyang Eton Center

A landscaped plaza set amidst the residential buildings of Shenyang Eton Center encourages a wider public to engage with the site. Above, Super Towers 1 and 2 rise with facades articulated as two layers: a solid outer curtainwall “cracks” to reveal a golden inner layer. As at Xiamen, this simple gesture gives the towers a distinctive appearance on the skyline.

Eton Dalian Center

A public park tops the podium of Eton Dalian Center, with multiple entries – from the street, residences, and retail – to make the site accessible to pedestrians. The high-rises, Super Towers 1 and 2, both feature chamfered corners with unique structural bracing, which yield great visual impact with little effort.

Though these specific gestures are small, they show how variations in program, materiality, form, and structure can enliven high-rise developments, achieving architectural variety within an economy of means.