Dong’an Lake Sports Center is an ensemble of louvred metal “artefacts in nature”

Envisioned as a future landmark by gmp Architects in Chengdu, China, this sports complex comprises three aluminium clad blocks separated by open spaces and playing fields.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Sep 10, 2022

Sports venues often take on the status of local landmarks in urban areas by virtue of their immense scales, landmark qualities, and the overarching sense of community they breed in the neighbourhoods they inhabit. Chengdu, the capital of China’s southwestern Sichuan Province, is set to host the upcoming FISU World University Summer Games next year, and in anticipation of this prestigious athletic event, the city has overseen the completion of a vast new sports complex along its periphery, now known as the Dong'an Lake Sports Center. Designed and realised by gmp Architects (von Gerkan, Marg, and Partners) - headquartered in Hamburg, Germany - the project consists of three minimalist cuboidal blocks, each dressed in a system of aluminium louvres which impart the development with a futuristic aesthetic. Linked by a common plinth, which also supports a swirling overhead walkway, the project is said to be a milestone achievement in the development of the Dong’an New Town area at the centre of the city’s Longquan District.

The development consists of three minimalist cuboidal blocks separated by open spaces and landscaped stretches | Dong’an Lake Sports Center | gmp Architects | STIRworld
The development consists of three minimalist cuboidal blocks separated by open spaces and landscaped stretches Image: CreatAR

“The brief presented the commission for the Dong’an Lake Sports Center as a chance to generate a new landmark architectural venture, a public building complex that stimulates the development of the Dong’an New Town district southeast of Chengdu,” notes the design team at gmp Architects, while speaking to STIR about the project’s salient features. They add, “As the site is facing a vast wetland at the edge of the city’s urban fabric, in proximity to a stadium, our approach was structured on the image of 'artefacts in nature’ - a group of clear and simple architectural volumes that contain the main venues, and are interwoven with the landscape by a terraced podium containing service functions. The main buildings are arranged in a staggered manner such that yard-like outdoor spaces embrace the various outdoor playing fields between them.” Furthermore, the rectilinear geometries of the blocks also sharply contrast the rounded form of the nearby stadium's architecture, in spite of their stylistic similarities.

Featuring louvred aluminium envelopes, the blocks have been designed as
Featuring louvred aluminium envelopes, the blocks have been designed as "artefacts in nature" Image: CreatAR

"In terms of scale, the wide open landscape was a significant concern, alongside the fact that the site is located on a major flight route approaching Chengdu. This led to the formulation of the very clear layout that was finally adopted," explains the design team. They elaborate, “The perception of the masterplan and roof design - the fifth façade became especially important considerations. Besides special yearly events, the Dong’an Lake Sports Center is expected to become part of the local community, enriching the neighbourhood’s quality of life with sport, culture, and commercial facilities.” Of the three blocks, the largest is a sports hall capable of accommodating 18,000 spectators. The two remaining buildings serve as a multifunctional hall and an indoor swimming pool complex equipped with two 50-metre pools respectively.

  • Staggered in their layout along the master plan, the blocks stand out from their context, with façades that exude an exceedingly cold and contemporary aesthetic | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
    Staggered in their layout along the master plan, the blocks stand out from their context, with façades that exude an exceedingly cold and contemporary aesthetic Image: CreatAR
  • The louvred aluminium texture also extends to the building's fifth façade, the roof, as the area is located on a major flight route through Chengdu | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
    The louvred aluminium texture also extends to the building's fifth façade, the roof, as the area is located on a major flight route through Chengdu Image: CreatAR

By virtue of the structures being elevated on a platform, the landscape design throughout the complex possesses an intriguing three-dimensionality, linked on multiple levels, yet segregated based on privacy requirements. A spiralling raised walkway, brimming with vibrant colour, links the three blocks. Such structures have gained prominence of late in various urban realms throughout China, as exemplified by the Ruyi Bridge in Chengdu, as well as the Lucky Knot in Changsha. Designed by Atelier sq, the arms of the overhead bridge radiate from a point at the centre of the development in a pinwheel-esque fashion to cut across the lawns separating the podium of Dong’an Lake Sports Park from the nearby stadium. These arms unite at a nexus point where the elevated pathway encircles a playground, imparting a sense of enclosure to this outdoor space.

The buildings are raised atop a common plinth with elevated walkways and landscaped plazas linking them | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
The buildings are raised atop a common plinth with elevated walkways and landscaped plazas linking them Image: CreatAR

Green lawns, open courts, and public spaces for congregation have been ordered in the stretches between the buildings. "The shifted arrangement of the main buildings interlocks the complex with the surrounding context, generating various plazas with different orientations and purposes. The plinth is the link between the 'artefacts and nature'. Façades at the podium level are open to all sides, providing multiple points of access as well as public functions like restaurants or roofed badminton courts that engage with users," mention the architects. On the other hand, the metallic sheaths of the blocks themselves give off an aura of artificial objects, placed in a foreign environment. Enveloping the entirety of each block, including their roofscapes, this layer is a deciding factor in the homogeneity of the material palette of the development’s built forms, as if each were shaped from a single piece of metal.

  • The aluminium louvres part near each structure's escape stairwell, allowing a sense of transparency in the design | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
    The aluminium louvres part near each structure's escape stairwell, allowing a sense of transparency in the design Image: CreatAR
  • These angular highlights contrast the exceedingly grid-like character of the building's envelope to represent the movement and dynamism of sport | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
    These angular highlights contrast the exceedingly grid-like character of the building's envelope to represent the movement and dynamism of sport Image: CreatAR

Hence, it is this machine-like character, almost anachronistic when considering the development's more low-key surroundings - barring the presence of a stadium to one side - that makes the blocks' exceedingly contemporary appearance stand out more than usual. As stated by gmp Architects, "The horizontal façade louvres, slowly turning open in the middle to reveal the inner activities - especially at night - refer to speed and the dynamic movement of sport, at the same time the silver colour represents high-tech industries located in this city district area. The envelopes are composed of a prefabricated system to ensure precision." The metallic skin of each structure possesses an air of cool detachment from the viridescent landscape encircling it, cutting off its users from the world to direct their energy towards a singular focus. However, each structure’s escape stairwells have been left exposed and illuminated from the inside, with their geometries obliquely intersecting the horizontal grid of the louvres to infuse the façade designs with a degree of transparency that moderates their otherwise disengaged nature.

  • Colour coding schemes have been followed throughout most of the blocks as a means to visually delineate functions | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
    Colour coding schemes have been followed throughout most of the blocks as a means to visually delineate functions Image: CreatAR
  • The interior design aesthetic is also contemporary and muted in its style, with an abundance of neutral hues and industrial-style finishes | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
    The interior design aesthetic is also contemporary and muted in its style, with an abundance of neutral hues and industrial-style finishes Image: CreatAR

Another noteworthy feature of the graphic design identity followed in the project is the use of colour-coding inside each building, associating different hues with specific functional zones. "The colour coding provides a sense of orientation and was developed according to the functions of the different building complexes: the red of the gymnasium highlights the celebratory character of this venue, the blue is naturally related to the world of swimming in the natatorium, the 'active' orange of the multifunctional hall refers to its flexibility and openness towards future activities such as exhibitions, cultural events etc. At night time, its different colours become more visible through the louvre envelope to generate a festive atmosphere," relays the design team.

View of the staircase in the gymnasium block | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
View of the staircase in the gymnasium block Image: CreatAR

Narrow recesses are present at the entrances to all of the blocks, as glazed expanses on their faces create visual links between interior and exterior. The contemporary design aesthetic of the complex’s exterior is also reflected in the interior design, which is defined by clean lines, a combination of exposed industrial-style ceilings as well as plainer false ceilings, and strong geometric design sensibilities. Aside from the colour-coded sections, the chromatic palette is fairly neutral, with an abundance of white walls, grey and silver metallic accents, along with dark grilles and meshes.

The swimming pool block hosts two pools that are 50 metres in length with blue-toned colour coding in its signage | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
The swimming pool block hosts two pools that are 50 metres in length with blue-toned colour coding in its signage Image: CreatAR

Regarding their objectives for the future of this venture in sports architecture, gmp Architects states: “Our hope is that besides big public events, the new Dong’an Lake Sports Center will be a useful model of a public sport venue that really becomes an asset for the local community, as architecture that enriches the everyday life of the people it serves." With this in mind, the project’s eye-catching appearance is likely to bring it a fair degree of visibility within its locale, while its innovative layout and connection to the neighbouring landscape offers unique insights into how developments of this scale can incorporate multi-dimensional connectivity, elevating the nature of the built environment into a more layered configuration.

  • A number of vast multifunctional venues are hosted within the complex, catering to a range of events for the upcoming FISU World University Games | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
    A number of vast multifunctional venues are hosted within the complex, catering to a range of events for the upcoming FISU World University Games Image: CreatAR
  • The program contains dedicated venues for a number of sports, including badminton | Dong’an Lake Sports Center  | gmp Architects | STIRworld
    The program contains dedicated venues for a number of sports, including badminton Image: CreatAR

Project Details

Name: Dong’an Lake Sports Center
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Year of Completion: 2022
Client: China Resources Land (Chengdu) Development Co., Ltd.
Architect: gmp Architects (von Gerkan, Marg, and Partners)
Design Team: Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Stephan Rewolle
Project Lead: Sui Jinying
Project Management in China: Wu Di, Lin Wei, Wang Zheng
Competition Team: Huang Han, Li Ran, Ma Yuan, Wang Yan, Zhai Chengcheng, Jan Peter Deml, Yang Feng, Yuan Tao
Detailed Design Team: Huang Han, Li Ran, Ma Yuan, Maarten Harms, Mulyanto, Wang Yan, Xia Jing, Zhai Chengcheng, Zhu Shiyou, Jan-Peter Deml, Yang Feng, Yuan Tao

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