Chicago-based global architecture firm FGP Atelier is changing the paradigm of what constitutes great architecture and building. Helmed by award-winning, Mexican-born architect Francisco Gonzalez Pulido (FGP), FGP Atelier was founded in September of 2017 following Gonzalez Pulido’s departure as partner and president of JAHN. The firm has already demonstrated a game-changing approach to typology, social and economic advancement through the integration of design and technology, as well as celebrating their first major large-scale project completion. Quiantan Lot 41’s two tower and dynamic urban complex in Shanghai’s fastest growing international business center, boasts a unique aesthetic accomplished through advanced technology and anchor tenants that include the regional offices of the iconic British brand, Land Rover.
Located along the bank of the Huangpu River in the Quiantan District of Pudong—Shanghai’s epicenter of economic and social development, Lot 41, was meticulously designed to reflect the local culture, create a people-centric yet unique biophilic environment, and with the idea of a porous urban fabric in mind.
Serving as a powerful metamorphic and symbolic tool—the buildings transform with the city’s atmosphere through the application of a custom fritted glass patterns which emulate Chinese bamboo when seen from afar. The patterned facade not only highlights the importance of bamboo in Chinese culture, but contributes to the overall efficiency of the building by providing natural shading and privacy for occupants.
“We designed these structures to not only honor the Chinese culture, but to stand as a feat of imagination and technology. From a distance, it is the abstract bamboo pattern that stands out, while the buildings become virtually invisible to the eye,” explains Gonzalez Pulido. “Designing the complex frit pattern was equivalent to putting together a giant puzzle—it would not have been possible without the parametric tools and digital fabrication technology. The result, is in essence, a building with a lyrical, beautifully integrated skin that performs with the light.”
Taking a multidisciplinary approach grounded in scientific research, logic, and work experience, Gonzalez Pulido taps into his intuition when designing active spaces, infrastructure, and urban networks. His design showcases an innate response to atmosphere, ecology, comfort, technology, economy, and culture through the following:
China grows over 400 species of bamboo and the plant is frequently referenced in ancient Chinese literature. Bamboo is not only a symbol of traditional Chinese values, but is also seen as a reflection of harmony between people and nature—which also harmonizes with the idea of a porous urban environment and biophilic design. The opaqueness rendered by the custom-designed fritted pattern also serves to cater to a still developing need for privacy in the country while keeping everything open and welcoming. While the bridges connecting the various structures serve a two-fold purpose—they reference the popularity of this design aspect in the country’s culture while also contributing to an interconnected yet porous urban environment.
The idea behind this is essentially people-centric with aspects of biophilic design. To combat the tendency to overdevelop, Gonzalez Pulido kept the inner area of the urban complex open. In this manner, the landscaped courtyard-like area enhances rather than degrades the surrounding environment while also encouraging inhabitants and/or visitors to interact with nature and each other. Similarly, the addition of a rooftop garden on each tower promotes biodiversity while also contributing to health and wellbeing—yielding much more than just another aesthetically pleasing place.
The implementation of bridges that connect the various structures also play to the idea of interconnectedness and how the built environment can be used to enhance the connection between people. By leaving the large-scale buildings on opposite sides and on the outer lines, the inner area begins to take on the feeling of a small sanctum in the middle of an urban complex, yet also serves to provide a visual sense of arrival when transitioning between buildings. A contrast to the ‘walled city,’ the bridges imbue security and openness, are open 24 hours, and feature long expanses of uninterrupted glass rather than ‘fortress gates’.
By utilizing parametric and digital fabrication tools to achieve the abstraction of the bamboo on each glass panel, the design concept for each tower was realized with 52 panels rather than the 500 it would have take without the current technology. Through the printing countless dots on the surface of each glass panel in a predetermined yet complex frit pattern, the area is not only rendered opaque, but from afar, forms the shape of bamboo in the eyes of the beholder. Besides the cost-prohibitive factor, the building’s footprint was greatly reduced. The use of technology also aided in creating vivid, distinctive imagery that truly renders the towers unique. By wielding every tool available, FGP was able to build cutting-edge towers at a much lower cost, with far fewer materials, and in a period of time that would not have been foreseeable in regards to this project even 10 years ago. The multipurpose aesthetic not only reflects an aspect of Chinese culture that is quite important to the country, but through the opacity rendered by the application of the pattern, it provides the building with natural shading and some privacy.
By designing an open, modern space on the ground level, Gonzalez Pulido created visual contrast between the scale of each building. While the towers are much taller than the surrounding buildings, they are perfectly situated so as to enhance rather than to take away from the neighboring structures. The contrast in scale shines attention directly into the open showroom—a fact Land Rover did not miss during the construction phase. Enamored by the modern showplace lobby, they became the anchor tenant.
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