UNStudio wins competition for Hiwell Amber Centre

UNStudio’s design proposal for the mixed-use Hiwell Amber Centre development will cater to the rapid development of Hangzhou’s economic, cultural and technological needs, while accelerating the prosperity of this new central business district; a district that will provide a full range of services to local residents and visitors from around the world.

In contrast to typical high-density commercial complexes, UNStudio’s design for the development redefines the mixed-use urban landscape by introducing a variety of podiums, public and dynamic open spaces, thereby creating a large scale ‘Urban Living Room’ topped by four towers with integrated functions. Four high-rise towers are set to add a mix of quality offices, a hotel (Andaz Hotel), art spaces, retail and a variety of other amenities to the heart of Hangzhou’s new city centre, Qianjiang Century City.

Image © UNStudio

A New Multi-functional Space
On a site that also hosts the Olympic Sports Centre, the 2023 Asian Games complex, and the Hangzhou Century Center, the “Hangzhou Arch”, the Hiwell Amber Centre embraces the city’s cultural history and reflects the vibrant cityscape. By way of a flowing, tapestry-like façade, reminiscent of the dimensionality of Hangzhou’s embroidery, the smooth glass peels apart to create a welcoming gesture of openness to the city.

In UNStudio’s design, the entire site is composed to echo the existing urban fabric and landscape conditions, while enabling unobstructed views towards adjacent buildings and the river for the four140m high towers. This in turn frees up public space in the centre of the site to form a central courtyard, hotel plazas and landscaped corridors, with the podiums scattered around these layered public plazas.

Image © UNStudio

The arrangement of the towers therefore provides open views, but also creates a permeable urban interface at ground level that opens up in all directions, inviting visitors into the centre of the site. The site further takes advantage of its proximity to the Dongfeng River, a tributary of the Qiantang River, to introduce natural green landscaping and waterscape create a healthy and vibrant environment.

The canopy
The glass canopies of the hotel tower facades reinforce the architectural concept of creating a gesture of openness. The extensive curtain of the hotel tower flows down the facade and unfolds like wings across the lower zones. A curved horizontal surface then wraps around the four towers, connecting the individual programmes while providing a frame for the internal and external courtyards.

Image © UNStudio

Towards the ground level, the extensive canopy interweaves with the glass curtain wall to provide open views. The scaled glass reflects sunlight from different angles to create a shimmering visual effect that echoes the endless flow of the Qiantang River. The canopy meanwhile extends downwards with tree-like columns connecting it to the ground, providing a comfortable social environment for all surrounded by nature.

The translucent canopy also functions as an environmentally responsive element that benefits the physical and mental health of the users. Its ringed shape creates a covered central walkway that accelerates air circulation while providing a shield from the elements without compromising on daylight.

Image © UNStudio

As such, the structure forms an all-weather micro-environment under the canopy that encourages residents and visitors to communicate, interact and relax in the outdoor public spaces. The translucent canopy is integrated with glass curtain walls to ensure maximum daylight inside the building.

However, in order to avoid excessive solar heat penetration, vertical fins placed on the glass façade of the hotel tower effectively solve this problem. As such, the design creates a comfortable, naturally ventilated living environment for the vertical spaces. The ‘Urban Living Room’ serves as the main activator and attractor of the site. At ground level it is an urban garden that creates inward and outward connections.

Image © UNStudio

With its variety of spaces enabling different uses, it is an incubator for culture and innovation and a connector that unites a variety of programmes with the city. The lower volumes are designed to reference the ancient Liangzhu village in Hangzhou, with the podium representing a modern reinterpretation of one to three storey buildings and enhancing local cultural identity.

A fluid network of plazas creates strong pedestrian connections throughout the site and enhances the village-like experience. Semi-outdoor areas on the middle floors and roof gardens further provide places for residents to relax and interact. Source by UNStudio.

Image © UNStudio

Location: Hangzhou, China

Architect: UNStudio

Design Team: Ben van Berkel, Hannes Pfau with Erica Fang, Matt Burdalski, Judy Wong, Xiaorong Mo, Rafael Yoon, Zhengda Hou, Chengyang Liu, Cheng Tan, Chris Liu, Albert Yen, Craig Yan, Jon Espinosa Molano, Dongbo Han, Ami Nigam, Joanna Wang, Ray Wong, Haodong Hu, Yu Zhao, Junya Huang, Andres Monis Rodriguez, Ruijie Xu, Yufeng Tu, Joy Li, and Tony Hu, Antoine Muller, Shail Patel, Wei Huang, Biqin Li, Lawrence Ma, Bin Fu, Pedro Manzano Ruiz, Richard Stewart, Arturo Revilla Perez, Maya Calleja Calvo, Dongjie Qiu, Tsung-Yen Hsieh, Harsh Arora, Zhenyu Yang

Local Executive Architect: China United Engineering Corporation Limited

Structure: Canopy+T3: ARUP

Canopy: ARUP. Towers: Positive Attitude Group (PAG)

Fire Engineering: Hotel: RJA

MEP: Squire Mech (Hotel). MJP M&E Consultant (Apartment & Office)

Kitchen: Hotel: RICCA

Landscape: JTL Studio

Lighting: Brandston Partnership. Inc (BPI)

Client: Hiwell Properties

Building surface: 260,574 sqm, 169,310 sq.m (Aboveground), 91264 sq.m(Underground)

Building site: 33,862 sq.m

Year: 2023

Images: Hiwell Properties/ICON, Courtesy of UNStudio

Overall view


Fist Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan



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