Unusual Architecture + [News]


The inauguration of "The Building on the Water" for the Shihlien Chemical plant, in Jiangsu Province, will be held on August 30th, 2014, the first work in China unveiled by celebrated architect Álvaro Siza. Located in the Industrial Park of New Salt Huai'An City, Jiangsu Shihlien Industrial Chemical Co. is one of the world's largest combined soda ash and ammonium chloride production plants.

In 2009, Chairman Per-Shih Lin envisioned creating an office building over the 100.000m2 artificial lake/reservoir of the vast industrial complex.

The concept was to seamlessly blend the most important element in the manufacturing process of glass - water - at the same time establishing a world-class architectural profile for the plant.

Over-water construction was an entirely new venture for Álvaro Siza. The building took four years to design and construct. Meticulously built in white exposed concrete, the building's pristine curvilinear form measures over 300m in length, comprising two levels above water.

As if evoking a life-like dragon, elegantly poised over water, the contours of this complex gently undulate. Contorting itself, the form escapes from convention, an autonomous entity contrasting with the orthogonal shapes of the factory complex. Crisscrossing the curving geometries, bridges interconnect spaces, levels and volumes.

The design takes full advantage of its poetic setting and natural light. In constant interplay with the environment - whether it is the changing hues and reflections of the water, or varying tones of light and shadow, the building manifests a multitude of changing complexions. Whether viewed from land, water or air, the elegant building conveys a quiet beauty achieved when the concrete and substantial comes in contact with the fluid and ethereal.

These outdoor spaces also allow firefighters to cover the perimeter of the building, as required by Chinese law, promoting an overall free flow of horizontal and vertical circulation. One can move diagonally across bridges from one floor to another, linking the restaurant to the offices and meeting rooms on each side of this extended horseshoe plan.

As Por-Shih Lin put it: "As the first project in China by Álvaro Siza, it will be an inspiration for future industrial plant designs in the country and is truly significant for that reason."

Location: Industrial Park, Huaian City, Jiangsu. China Architects: Álvaro Siza + Castanheira Carlos Project Management: Sephen Wang, Richard WangLocal Partner: United Architects and Engineers Co., Ltd. Client: Shihlien Jiangsu Chemical Industry Co., Ltd Project Year: 2011 - 2014 Photo: Fernando Guerra Model: Alvaro Negrello