by Jincy IypeJun 29, 2022
A continuous, sinuous roof will swish around the Jiaxing Civic Centre in China, hosting spectacular views to a river and lush vegetation, as imagined by MAD Architects. Expected to be completed by the end of 2023, the project sits along the Jiaxing city’s central axis and includes three settings for exhibition, education, and amenity functions, topped by a pristine white floating roof that encircles a massive green lawn at its centre, as an ‘embrace of the city’.
MAD has envisioned Jiaxing Civic Centre as an “artistic entity on an urban scale”, where architecture and landscape flow into each other. A 6,000 sqm circular lawn takes centrestage, while the people and built environment interact seamlessly, to become a new type of dynamic urban public space, where people can gather, rest and play and participate in activities and exhibitions. This anchor also allows for the project’s large structural volumes to “dissipate and dissolve into the landscape”.
The civic centre sits at a prominent site – adjacent to the city’s historic south lake and its largest park, next to the Haiyan river channel that connects the two cities of Jiaxing and Haiyan. Conceived across 1,30,000 sqm (approximately), the project contains three venues: The Science and Technology Museum, the Women and Children Activity Centre, and the Youth Activity Centre, forming a total construction area of 1,80,000 sqm and a site footprint of 72,000 sqm. These three venues will sit “hand in hand” enclosed by a floating white circular roof that unites them as a single entity.
The project is outlined by fluid lines and spaces that echo the softness and grace of the ancient canal towns lining the southern banks of the Yangtze River in eastern China. The municipal public building embraces innovation, coherence, environmental friendliness, openness, and co-sharing, to resonate with the city’s historical heritage.
A civic centre, first and foremost, must be a place that attracts people; a place where children, youth, seniors, and families are willing to come together on a daily and weekly basis. We have created an undulating ring to serve as a garden-like living room for the city: an embrace. – Ma Yansong, Founder, MAD Architects
Under the curvaceous roof, the three venues maintain themselves as one cohesive entity, by serving exhibition, education, and amenity functions in a coherently arranged plan, forming a naturally interdependent group with a flowing line of movement. The spaces for exhibition, theatre, education, activity, entertainment, and other uses are all woven together organically, complementing and bleeding into each other. A wasteful duplication of service spaces has been avoided in the design, which in turn offers more space for people and nature.
The waterfront civic centre is covered with locally produced white ceramic panels that respond to the traditional barrel tile roofs of the local village, enhancing the complex’s economic and energy efficiency. Meanwhile, the project’s white roof forms a continuous skyline, “like a tarp blown by the wind, bringing a soft sense of wrapping to the form,” shares Ma Yansong, Founder, MAD Architects. “Whether you are on the central lawn, outside the park, or on the building’s links and pathways, the scenery seems to change with your movement,” he adds.
The first level of the centre is open to its surroundings on all sides, via bordering the municipal traffic and wider landscape, or linking the main lawn with the parklands on the periphery of the building. This forms a semi-open, semi-private space that can be used in various ways for daily activities or as an open-air plaza to host events.
Besides the central lawn, the centre also hosts open and intimate spaces which connect people with nature, such as the terrace on the second floor, which forms a 350-meter-long landscaped corridor and running path. Public is encouraged to climb towards the track from the central green space to walk or exercise or visit the amphitheatre and sunken plaza on its east side, before wandering into the parkland forest to enjoy the wilderness.
MAD shares that the site’s original trees have grown to an impressive age and have been accommodated as much as possible into the design, begetting a new natural park. Winding paths snake through the middle of this green forest through enclosed buildings, creating cinematic avenues through the trees and facing a calming riverfront view.
A cascading terrace faces the central lawn in the building’s interior, setting dialogue with the curved white roof. “The elements interlock and overlap into multiple semi-outdoor spaces, separated by minimalist floor-to-ceiling glass, blurring the interior and exterior. This is an urban public space for citizens to gather; a fresh, pure land for people to wash away the city's complex clutter,” shares the architecture studio based in Beijing.
MAD explores the relationship threaded between the city, nature and its citizens through their design for Jiaxing Civic centre, culminating in a fresh urban space that is accessible for all. It offers itself as a “natural, equal, and friendly open space”, to each and everyone in the city of Jiaxing, which carries a unique historical status in China. “Here, architecture allows citizens to envision a spiritual blueprint of their ideal life in the fast-paced world, and to gain a sense of the promising future to be created through the positive development of the city,” says Yansong.
Name: Jiaxing Civic Center
Location: Jiaxing, China
Site Area: 1,26,740 sqm
Building Area: approximately 1,80,000 sqm (Above ground: 72,351 sqm
Underground: 1,07,950 sqm)
Height: 39 m
Years: 2019 – 2023
Client: Jiaxing Highway Investment Co., Ltd.
Architect: MAD Architects
Principal Partners: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano
Associate Partners: Kin Li, Fu Changrui, Liu Huiying
Design Team: Yin Jianfeng, Alessandro Fisalli, Fu Xiaoyi, Chen-Hsiang Chao, He Yiming, Thoufeeq Ahmed, Chen Hao, He Xiaowen, Zhang Yaohui, Guo Xuan, Edgar Navarrete, Claudia Hertrich, Deng Wei, Zhang Xiaomei, Chen Nianhai, Li Cunhao, Sun Feifei, Punnin Sukkasem, Manchi Yeung, Li Yingzhou
Client: Jiaxing Highway Investment Co., Ltd.
Executive Architects: East China Architectural Design & Research Institute, Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute (Group) Co., Ltd.
Façade consultant: RFR Shanghai
Landscape Consultant: Earthasia Design Group, Yong-High Landscape Design Consulting Co.Ltd
Interior Design consultant: Shanghai Xian Dai Architectural Decoration & Landscape Design Research Institute CO., Ltd