Articulated as a pair of intertwined forms meant to evoke the mathematical symbol for infinity (∞), Zaha Hadid Architects’ recently inaugurated project - the Infinitus Plaza in Guangzhou, China, has been described by the practice as a gateway to the commercial urban core of the city’s Baiyun district. The development borders the subterranean tunnel of Line 2 of the Guangzhou Metro, adjacent to Feixiang Park station. Designed as the global new headquarters for the health and wellness organisation Infinitus China, the campus stands on the site of the decommissioned Baiyun Airport development, connecting Guangzhou’s city centre with Feixiang Gongyuan Park, as well as other upcoming neighbourhoods in its vicinity.
Spread out over an area of nearly 185,643 sqm, Infinitus Plaza encompasses sprawling courtyards and outdoor spaces, with two eight-storey office blocks at the heart of the organically-shaped landscape. According to the London-based practice, the pair of structures host collaborative workspaces attuned to foster interaction and a strong sense of community - in line with the principle of Si Li Ji Ren (the interest of all should be considered before taking any actions), a core value of Infinitus’ work culture. Together, the buildings have been designed as a stack of ‘infinite rings’ that are interconnected at multiple levels by means of overhead bridges - promoting healthy and flexible working conditions bolstered by shared indoor and outdoor spaces. The bridges link offices within the buildings to auxiliary shopping and dining areas while containing adaptive communal spaces that include a gym and exercise rooms, recreation and relaxation zones, as well as a restaurant and café to supplement the project’s aim to enhance employee wellness and productivity.
With sections clad in diamond-patterned aluminium panels that are perforated to regulate solar heat gain, the buildings exhibit a sinuous façade design, punctuated by openings covered in double-insulated low-E glazing units that mitigate overheating and excess energy consumption while furnishing ample natural light indoors. The façade cladding system was developed after carrying out a study of the annual solar irradiation, which determined that the building’s outdoor roof terraces would provide sufficient self-shading. Angular steel connectors were used to link the panels to the fascia attached to the edge of each floor plate. Nearly half of the project’s roof area is covered by a green roof, featuring jogging tracks and walking paths, as well as gardens on the third, seventh, and eighth floor terraces that grow indigenous plants and herbs by means of natural irrigation.
The structures also contain vast central atria, with expansive skylights providing scintillating views of clouds swirling above. Each atrium is topped by a translucent, double-layered ETFE membrane, optimised to dissipate heat through evaporative cooling with the assistance of a system of sprinklers. Powered by photovoltaics, the sprinklers activate when the membrane’s exterior surface is heated to a thermal threshold of 35 degrees Celsius, spraying collected rainwater for around four minutes every half an hour to lower outdoor temperatures by 14 degrees and cool the building’s interior by approximately five degrees. A 60cm cavity of compressed air has also been integrated into the design of the membranes.
Also equipped to monitor temperature and air quality, the building’s smart management system is responsible for overseeing the sprinkler system while additionally adjusting ventilation and climate control in accordance with occupancy levels and energy consumption. Furthermore, the system also adapts and predicts building occupancy trends to maintain optimum thermal comfort at all times. Infinitus Plaza has been fitted with rainwater harvesting, collection, filtration, and micro-irrigation systems that help in maintaining the greenery within the plaza’s landscape design.
Having achieved a LEED Gold Certification and the equivalent 3-Stars of China’s Green Building Program within the humid subtropical monsoon climate of Guangzhou, Infinitus Plaza’s life-cycle carbon footprint was determined during the design process to be 15.3 per cent embodied carbon and 84.7per cent operational emissions. Furthermore, optimisation of the structural design enabled the incorporation of recycled steel, copper, glass, aluminium alloy profiles, gypsum products, and wood, while limiting the use of concrete - a further element of the structure’s sustainable design approach.
Envisioned as an anchor to transform Guangzhou’s new Baiyun Central Business District into a national hub for the health and wellness sector in China, Infinitus Plaza is a culmination of sustainable strategies, innovative construction, and Zaha Hadid Architects’ penchant for parametric design - producing a result that is equal parts visually striking and functionally intricate.
Name: Infinitus Plaza
Location: Guangzhou, China
Year of completion: 2021
Site Area: 45,280 sqm
Gross Floor Area: 185,643 sqm
Above Ground: 118,200 sqm
Below Ground: 67,443 sqm
Height: 35 m
Floors: 8 (above ground) + 2 (below ground)
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Design Principal: Patrick Schumacher
ZHA Project Director: Satoshi Ohashi
ZHA Project Associates: Yang Jingwen, Juan Liu, Martin Pfleger
ZHA Project Architect: Kai-Jui Tsao
ZHA Façade Lead: Xuexin Duan, Nan Jiang
ZHA Project Team: Congyue Wang, Eugene Leung, Feifei Fan, Lida Zhang, Lily Liu, Qi Cao, Shu Hashimoto, Xiaoyu Zhang, Ying Xia, Zhe Xing
ZHA Interiors Project Director: Satoshi Ohashi, Kar Hwa Ho, Yang Jingwen, Melodie Leung
ZHA Interiors Project Associates: Torsten Broeder, Juan Liu
ZHA Interiors Project Lead: Nan Jiang, Kai-Jui Tsao, Feifei Fan, Hanbing Zhao
ZHA Interiors Project Team: Aleksandra Mnich-Spraiter, Amittai Antoine, Che-Hung Chien, Congyue Wang, Dieter Matuschke, Genci Sulo, Iliana Capsali, Jiaxing Lu, Lida Zhang, Magda Smolinska, Mercedes Sarua, Nailu Chen, Philipp Siedler, Qi Cao, Qiao Zhang, Uli Blum, William Colenso, Xiaoyu Zhang, Xinqi Zhuang, Xuexin Duan, Ying Xia, Yuan Feng, Zhe Xing