Sometimes I can just marvel at the speed at which China has been changing in recent years. Although some developments may leave questions unanswered, an enormous change is visible, at least in the field of architecture. When I was able to travel through China for the first time in 1978, the country was still characterised by socialist minimalism in housing construction and some monumental but dismal government buildings in the cities and by rural conditions in the countryside. Chengdu was then still a gloomy, poor provincial city with little architectural charm. Today, Chengdu with its more than 12 million inhabitants is one of the three most-populous cities and one of the most important economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication centers in Western China. No wonder, that what has now been created there under the name Loop of Wisdom is in stark contrast to the past. Such a creative and eye catching building would cause quite a stir also in the western hemisphere.
The Powerhouse Company, the architects of the building, write on their website: “Living up to the suggestiveness of its name, the Loop of Wisdom embodies a timeless architectural concept. Our design for a technology museum and reception center for a new neighborhood in Chengdu, China, is much more than an exuberant landmark. In addition to its obvious aesthetic appeal and cultural program, the fluid structure incorporates a spectacular public space – an undulating rooftop trail. This addition makes the Loop of Wisdom an accessible icon, rather than a remote beacon. It invites people to explore it and make it part of their regular walking or jogging routine.”
Their building fits beautifully with the natural context. Working with the landscape rather than simply ignoring it, the Powerhouse Company created an elegant, organic form. The gentle design invites people to come and explore it. By shaping a circular path that follows the topography, they combined two separate programmatic entities in a single structure. As the path rises up to make space for the program, it becomes a roof offering stunning views. The new building becomes a path and architecture at the same time, while allowing nature to continue around, under and within the form of the structure.
Designed as a continuous ring, the loop’s form is archetypal and universal; organic and geometric; enigmatic yet instantly recognizable. While the client initially wanted a temporary building, they were so impressed by the quality of the design that they decided it must become a permanent fixture. A proposed ephemeral structure became a long-lived and inherently sustainable one.
Read more about the Loop of Wisdom in a recently published article in the online magazine archdaily.