by Jerry ElengicalDec 03, 2022
If one was ever to enter the mind of a science-fiction fan fascinated by time travel concepts or futuristic odysseys and spaces , it would most resemble this experimental space created by the Beijing-based architecture firm, PINES ARCH. Nicknamed the 2022 Golong Wormhole, the 1000 sq.m. event and exhibition space rests in the Golong Holdings headquarters building in China. The beauty and wellness conglomerate, Golong, aspires the space to represent the brand’s inquisitive and transformative culture.
As the name suggests, the Chinese architects portray the space to be imbibing the uneasy sensation of the vast knowns and unknowns of wormholes in the galaxy. The newly built space includes three interdependent and interconnected galleries, circulation spaces reimagined as ‘space-time tunnels’, and the sculptural wormhole itself. An increasingly visual manifestation of a rather abstract concept, the wormhole space, akin to its interstellar namesake, connects the three galleries while at the same time contrasting with their spatial sensoriality, traversing the visitor’s mind to folded space-time. Amongst the rectilinear stretches of galleries, ‘tunnels’, and office spaces, the wormhole becomes the only sinuously placed structure. As its form protrudes from the overall low-lying language of the building, its cascading elements rooting from the foot of the shell structure reach out to the top in an undulating geometry to create a paradigm shift in the conventional perception of a room. The space seamlessly switches between housing upto sixty people during events and harbouring a tranquil setting for the employees to unwind.
While the allure of the design rests in the wormhole, the galleries and spacetime tunnel too etch a suspenseful narrative prior to experiencing the sculpturesque entity. Within the umbrella language of Chinese Architecture, there conventionally exists prose to adhere to a single architecture language throughout the design, but the 2022 Golong Wormhole experiments with an amalgamation of organic geometry in a style that may still be termed minimalistic.
In the discourse of its implementation, the structure takes note of the intricate layering of each cascading step. After a deliberate colloquy of simplifying the anatomy, a layout placement was done by projecting the curves into a grid. The curvillinear, near abstract form of the wormhole is rooted using a structural frame made of galvanised steel studs, welded on-site, to be lent the terraced formation via each step. The frames are lined with fiber-cement backer board, while each curvature is intricately made from glass fiber reinforced concrete panels. The upper steel frame of the wormhole shell is bolted onto the floor slab with GRC panels hanging on steel cables. The mystical effect of the space is primarily echoed in the lighting that is framed between the vertical members between the cascading curves. This is achieved through the use of frosted strips of bent acrylic positioned between the panels.
Adding to the empirical portrayal of transtemporal travels, the spacetime tunnels conceptually distort the personal perception of time. The dark tunnel steers the visitor on a linear path, with an intent to alter their awareness,imparting a sense of robotic movement distant from human freewill. Three spacetime tunnels inhabit what the architects call the ‘in-between realm’, to separate the wormhole from the galleries. Drenched in black, the tunnels are said to act as conveyor belts to navigate the circulation of these spaces. Hovering slightly above the ground level, these tunnels appear to be a foreign entity in the linear space, which otherwise would have qualified as a monotonous display area, only amply illuminated.
The materiality of the design mostly aligns with modernistic sensibilities, complementing the conventional geometry of contemporary architecture. While the architects manifest their concepts of celestial experiences, the monochromatic mood board with well-defined rectangular cut-outs ground the design to a rather profound identity.
The coffered ceiling grows into an eminent feature of the whole design. On the absolute tones of the polished epoxy floors and hand plastered walls, the ceiling reflects the topographical act and draws unaccountable attention to it. While the architectural language here too directs to modernity, the slant to monumentalise the ceiling over other elements is very neoclassical. However and additionally, the approach takes an intriguing turn when cross-referencing to the design concept of traversing time.
On either end of the wormhole stand the galleries which are devoted to creating a familiar space with utmost simplicity. While the eastern gallery is planned as a large space for exhibitions which may be subdivided by automatic glass partitions that are hidden into a pocket wall, the western gallery hosts a rotating partition. To facilitate the changing needs of the space, this partition is used to create temporary spatial divisions and boundaries. Elevating the bland purpose of a partition, here the rotating partition is furnished to purpose as a bar or coffee stand during events, and is equipped with electrical sockets and a hidden water inlet.
Apart from the wormhole, galleries, and the spacetime tunnels, the other functional spaces follow the familiar pattern of minimalism and utility-oriented interior design, with particular attention to light sources and the design of the fixtures. Nevertheless, the presence of the wormhole extends to the office spaces as well, through the lighting integrated in the thread of the cascading curves that illuminates either side of the structure. While the immediate appearance of the Golong Wormhole strikes a resemblance to OPEN Architecture’s recent Chapel of Sound, it is this implicit use of light that separates both. As much as the organic form unites the realms of conceptualisation, the contrasting use of natural light and artificial light diversify both. However, it is an intriguing conversation about how inspirations from the depths of spirituality and science converge to bring forth similarities between past, present, and future, extending the exploration of time as an entity. As stated by the architects, “In 2022 Golong Wormhole, the spaces are intentionally created to ‘contain’ a blank slate, in which any human presence or activity would colonize the spaces and create contexts of its own.”
(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)
Name: 2022 Golong Wormhole
Location: Hangzhou, China
Design: PINES ARCH
Client: Golong Holdings
Director: Evelyn Jingjie Wong, Shuni Wu
Design Team: Evelyn Jingjie Wong, Shuni Wu, Jiawen Song, Ninghui Wang
Main Materials: GRG by Hangzhou Haozhen Building Materials Co., LTD; Wall coating by Hangzhou Zhongtian Decoration Material Co., LTD; Epoxy floor by Hangzhou Chenyang Floor Technology Co., LTD