Shenzhen, China / 2012

This proposal for a 5,000 seat multifunctional arena and sports complex is part of a masterplan and architectural design competition for the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Shenzhen. The joint design team included Mack Scogin/ Merrill Elam, Neil Denari, Jacob + Macfarlane, and Griffin Enright, and was organized by Thom Mayne of Morphosis as part of his continuing interest in ‘combinatory urbanism.’

Deferral of Interiority

The sports complex design is based on surface-to-volume form, which has the potential to create an ambiguous middle-ground between mass, surface, and line. The upper and lower edges of the two building masses are pulled out into razor-thin surfaces that create an implied outer enclosure. These delicate surfaces wrap around and nestle into the neighboring mass, but they do not fuse. Instead, a giant figural joint is left between the two parts of the building.

The outer enclosure dually serves as a shade roof and a new ground, providing a stage for student life. Inside this indoor/outdoor space are glazed sub-enclosures for the lobby, cafes and bookstores, creating a third category of space and protection. Similar to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, the entry sequence is unfolds by deferring ‘true’ interiority (which of course is never achieved).

Buildings with Their Own Ground

Since the building comes ‘complete’ with its own ground, it doesn’t rely on landscape to connect programmatic functions together. The building alternatively appears to hover above the land, an effect emphasized by a joint along its perimeter.

The skin of the building is composite panel, permitting individual panels to be large, lightweight, and self-structured. Surfaces are inlaid with figural, thin-film solar tattoos that leap over joints and visually unify the discrete parts of the project.

Location: Shenzhen, China
Floor Area: 9,510 SM
Program: 5,000 Seat Arena, Sports Complex
Client: Chinese University of Hong Kong
Masterplanner: Thom Mayne/ Morphosis
Architect: Tom Wiscombe Architecture
JV Team: Mack Scogin/ Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Neil Denari/ NMDA, Brendan Macfarlane/ Jacob+Macfarlane/ John Enright/ Griffin Enright
Structural/ MEP: ARUP Consulting Engineers