Foster + Partners' DJI Sky City features a tree-like suspended steel structure

As the new Shenzhen headquarters for Chinese drone manufacturer DJI, the twin skyscrapers are said to boast the first asymmetrical suspended steel structures over 200m.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Oct 07, 2022

Ascending towards the heavens from trunk-like cores, wrapped in steel and glass envelopes, the geometric volumes of the recently completed DJI Sky City development by Foster + Partners in Shenzhen, China, constitute what is said to be the first use of an asymmetrical suspended steel structure in buildings of this scale. Comprising two towers that rise to heights in the neighbourhood of 200 metres, this groundbreaking venture in skyscraper architecture is expected to become the “heart of innovation” for DJI (Dajiang Innovations) - a company at the forefront of designing and manufacturing drones. Fittingly, the towers possess a forward looking aesthetic that displays Foster + Partners' proclivity towards high-tech architecture, harnessing structural systems as part of their façade designs.

  • Video of DJI Sky City Video: © Fangfang Tian
  • The towers are said to feature the first use of an asymmetrical suspended steel structure in buildings of this scale | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    The towers are said to feature the first use of an asymmetrical suspended steel structure in buildings of this scale Image: © ACF

In a statement, Founder and Executive Chairman of Foster + Partners, Norman Foster notes, "Drone technology has changed the way we experience the world around us, while pushing the boundaries of aerial possibilities. I have enjoyed using DJI’s products since the beginning, so we are delighted to have partnered with DJI in creating their new headquarters in Shenzhen, which will be the company's premier centre of research and innovation." Hosting research labs, staff training spaces, public areas, and flight test zones, the twin towers clock in at 40 and 44 storeys, as distinctive landmarks on the city skyline.

  • Clocking in at 40 and 44 storeys, the twin skyscrapers will serve as the new headquarters for Dajiang Innovations - a company that specialises in drone technology | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    Clocking in at 40 and 44 storeys, the twin skyscrapers will serve as the new headquarters for Dajiang Innovations - a company that specialises in drone technology Image: © ACF
  • The towers are expected to become the “heart of innovation” for the company | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    The towers are expected to become the “heart of innovation” for the company Image: © SFAP
  • Sky gardens have been placed along the terraces on the upper floors | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    Sky gardens have been placed along the terraces on the upper floors Image: © SFAP

To allow for minimal footprints on the green podiums at their bases, the towers have been designed using tree-trunk-like cores, with functional massing sprouting along their shafts. Lifted above the landscaped ground level podium, these cantilevered volumes are held up by megatrusses and cylindrical steel suspension rods, maintaining the integrity and stability of this exceptionally ambitious skyscraper design. Resembling something out of science fiction, the cool and refined vocabulary of each tower's exterior is riddled with geometric design references, with a strong focus on its structural steel skeleton. Coated with intumescent paint, the steel structure, laid bare for viewing, presents each building as a marvel of human ingenuity, decorated with gleaming glass curtain walls and PVDF aluminium composite panels. Parts of the cores have also been screened using anodised aluminium louvres with decorative stainless steel fins also shading certain sections of the skyscrapers.

  • Tree trunk-like cores support the blocks, which have been cantilevered from their shafts | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    Tree trunk-like cores support the blocks, which have been cantilevered from their shafts Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • The buildings possess minimal footprints on the lower levels by virtue of the blocks being cantilever from their cores | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    The buildings possess minimal footprints on the lower levels by virtue of the blocks being cantilever from their cores Image: © Chao Zhang
  • A green podium with abundant landscaping has been provided at the bases of both towers | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    A green podium with abundant landscaping has been provided at the bases of both towers Image: © SFAP

Besides the reduction of built up area on the ground, the combination of the suspended steel structural design and megatrusses was also essential in the realisation of quadruple height drone testing labs within the complex. Unique to the company’s operations, these monumental spaces have been delineated on the faces of the two blocks through V-shaped trusses - pivotal to their visual identity. In essence, Foster + Partners sought to redefine the arena of designing tall buildings in Shenzhen - a city already littered with an abundance of skyscrapers - through the realisation of this revolutionary project.

  • Strong geometric design design elements are visible throughout the façade | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    Strong geometric design design elements are visible throughout the façade Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • The project’s aesthetic, centred on high-tech architecture extends into the lobby and entrance area | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    The project’s aesthetic, centred on high-tech architecture extends into the lobby and entrance area Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • The interior scheme is also forward thinking and muted, in line with the appearance of the exterior | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    The interior scheme is also forward thinking and muted, in line with the appearance of the exterior Image: © SFAP

Emerging from this scheme, the pair of structures makes every other tall building in their vicinity fall into the backdrop, when compared to their sheer exuberance. While most such structures rise in setbacks and recede against the open sky, DJI Sky City's twin forms seem to expand on ascending along their cores, spreading almost like the canopy of a tree itself. On the ground level podium, the buildings are meant to radiate an air of openness and invitation, welcoming visitors to the home of DJI, through a sloping green podium that is accessible to all, along with other public facilities such as a community healthcare centre.

  • The towers contain halls, research labs, staff training spaces, public areas, and flight test zones in addition to offices and other administrative spaces | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    The towers contain halls, research labs, staff training spaces, public areas, and flight test zones in addition to offices and other administrative spaces Image: © ACF
  • A suspended sky bridge links the towers at their mid points | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    A suspended sky bridge links the towers at their mid points Image: © SFAP

Representing a new paradigm in the design of high-rise structures, the development also features sky gardens on its upper levels, serving as open spaces for staff to convene and bask in scintillating views of the city from elevated vantage points. Furthermore, at a height of around 105 metres, the twin structures are linked by an arcing 90-metre span suspension bridge, which floats above pools of water protruding from each of the buildings. Realised as a suspended steel structure with a similar intumescent paint finish, the bridge design features woven architectural mesh balustrade panels of stainless steel.

Spanning 90 metres, the bridge features a suspended steel structure with woven architectural mesh balustrade panels of stainless steel | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
Spanning 90 metres, the bridge features a suspended steel structure with woven architectural mesh balustrade panels of stainless steel Image: © SFAP

Designed to make full use of available daylight and vistas, the floor plates of the towers also aid in maintaining internal comfort and reducing energy needs. The interior design extends the aesthetic followed externally, with sleek metallic finishes that maintain continuity throughout. Office floor area inside the buildings has also been extended with the aid of the TWIN lift system which also cuts down on the number of shafts required for operation. Additional energy use management is supervised by the intelligent control system equipped within the lifts. Water management is handled through rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling systems.

V-shaped trusses support the drone testing labs, allowing for quadruple height spaces | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
V-shaped trusses support the drone testing labs, allowing for quadruple height spaces Image: © SFAP

Frank Wang, Founder and CEO of DJI, shares about the project in a press release, “It took us six years to build the new DJI Headquarters, which is the result of the wisdom and determination of DJI and our valued partners. We see Sky City as a product unlike any we have ever made: our real home." He continues, "At the beginning of a new era for DJI, we are paying great attention to the growth and well-being of every employee. This starts with a work environment that is both practical and delightful. I hope that Sky City will inspire all of us to work together and scale new heights of progress, wisdom, and possibilities to develop solutions that benefit society.”

  • Site Plan | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    Site Plan Image: © Foster + Partners
  • Section | DJI Sky City | Foster + Partners | STIRworld
    Section Image: © Foster + Partners

Project Details

Name: DJI Sky City
Location: Nanshan District, Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China
Site Area: 17,606 sqm
Year of Completion: 2022
Built Up Area: 242,000 sqm
Client: Dajiang Innovations
Architect: Foster + Partners
Design Team: Grant Brooker, Young Wei Chiu, Takuji Hasegawa, Jolanda Oud, Edin Gicevic, Yunfu Yi Andres Harris, Aquilino Fernandez Lopez, Pavan Birdi, Saman Ziaie, Ben Mowat, Julio Alberto Garcia Pizarro, Theodora Maria Moudatsou, Nina Haylock, Lindsay Duncan, Matt Morris, Alejandra Gavira Fernandez, Wolfgang Muller, Tulin Kori Candela, Carlo Pedata Maude Pinet
Collaborating Architect: CAPOL
Main Contractor: China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited
Structural Consultant: ARUP
Mechanical Engineers: ARUP
Façade Engineer: ARUP
Lighting Engineers: Foster + Partners, HDA
Landscape Consultant: Foster + Partners, Wubei Group, Ueyakato Landscape
Interior Design: Foster + Partners, Hongtao Decoration Associates
Vertical Transportation Consultant: ARUP
Green Building Consultant: Shenzhen Junye Building Technology
Wind Tunnel Test Consultant: Southwest Jiaotong University

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