Zaha Hadid Architects reveal first building from Unicorn Island masterplan in China

ZHA’s project, in Chengdu, reveals undulating clusters set amid greens, that upon completion will create living and working space for Chinese and international start-ups.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Jan 28, 2020

China's economic, infrastructural and industrial growth has seen a mammoth boom in less than a decade, developing from traditional settings to ultra-modern, internet and technology-based organisations. It comes as no surprise that China is now home to a third of the global technology startups, dubbed as 'Unicorn Companies', with a value of over a billion US dollars.

Unicorn Island Masterplan in Chengdu, China conceived by architectural giants Zaha Hadid Architects | Unicorn Island Masterplan| Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
Unicorn Island Masterplan in Chengdu, China, conceived by architectural giants Zaha Hadid Architects Image Credit: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects and Negativ.com

Further promoting the development of Chengdu and China’s digital economy at large is Zaha Hadid Architects’ (ZHA) latest project, ‘Unicorn Island’. ZHA has formulated a 64-hectare masterplan within the Tainfu New Area, in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Chengdu is hailed as the centre for excellence as it provides computer chips for half the world’s laptops and is a leading producer of mobile computing hardware. "With a focus on next-generation information technologies, intelligent manufacturing, digital entertainment and new energy, the Tianfu New Area to the south of the city is being developed as an ecologically sustainable civic, business and residential centre for China’s technology and research sectors," explains the studio.

The undulating, circular form of the Start-Up exhibition and conference centre | Unicorn Island Masterplan| Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
The undulating, circular form of the Start-Up exhibition and conference centre Image Credit: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects and MIR

The first building of the Unicorn Island masterplan, the Start-up exhibition and conference centre, is nearing completion. The video below offers a glimpse of its construction process, while revealing the white, undulating form of the building and the entire masterplan.

01 min watch Construction video of the Start-up exhibition and conference center in Unicorn Island | Unicorn Island Masterplan| Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
Construction video of the Start-Up exhibition and conference centre in Unicorn Island Video Credit: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

The mixed-use, radial masterplan demonstrates undulating landscapes and forms in Zaha Hadid’s signature design vocabulary, impelled by principles within the region’s historical and natural engineering projects. It looks at forming living, working and leisure spaces for international and Chinese companies within its realm. Unicorn Island has been designed keeping in mind the overall enhancement and well-being of its community, which comprises 70,000 researchers, office staff, residents and visitors.

Zaha Hadid Architects conceives integrated building clusters that encircle Unicorn Island’s central plaza and metro station in the masterplan. The design allows easy access to the entire island, via a short bike ride or few minutes of walking, upon completion.

Unicorn Island’s Start Up exhibition and conference centre | Unicorn Island Masterplan| Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
Unicorn Island’s Start-Up exhibition and conference centre Image Credit: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects and MIR

Each cluster’s integrity and growth – including its composition, scale and height – will be organically decided and established during its lifetime development. This organic nature of the masterplan responds to varying requirements of function, cultivating "a diversity of interconnected buildings at a human scale that establish a sense of community."

The adjacent Dujiangyan irrigation system on river Min (northwest of Chengdu) was built some 2300 years ago. This historic water management system arranged the natural forces of the river to irrigate the plains of Chengdu and was named the UNESCO world heritage site in 2000. This formed one of the most fertile agricultural lands in China along with protecting the area from flooding. "Contemporary hydraulic engineering is also re-establishing the wetlands of the Tianfu New Area as part of a comprehensive ecological project that serves as water conservation, flood control and recreation area," stated the firm in a press statement.

Unicorn Island’s Turbine Park | Unicorn Island Masterplan| Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
Unicorn Island’s Turbine Park Image Credit: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects and MIR

Influenced by the continuous works of Tianfu New Area to improve its natural wetlands, along with the environmental principles of Dujiangyan’s ancient irrigation systems, Unicorn Island’s parkland design constitutes green civic areas, features of water conservation and improved accessibility to form the aforementioned ‘living and working environments’ within its layout.

Unicorn Island’s new parklands will offer locally grown, fresh produce to its visitors, workers and inhabitants, by incorporating natural water management systems, which will supplement further technological advancements in urban farming.

Unicorn Island’s Future Fortress surrounded by greens | Unicorn Island Masterplan| Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
Unicorn Island’s Future Fortress surrounded by greens Image Credit: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects and MIR

Project Details

Name: Unicorn Island masterplan
Location: Chengdu, China
Client: Chengdu Tianfu New Area Investment Group
Site Area: 670,000 sqm
Gross Floor Area: 956,200 sqm
Year: 2018 (TBC)
Status: Under Construction
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Design: Patrik Schumacher
Project Directors: Satoshi Ohashi, Michele Pasca di, Magliano
Project Associates: Andres Arias Madrid, Stefano Paiocchi, Jingwen Yang
Project Architect: Maria Tsironi
Project Team: Di Ding, Chengzhen Jia, Johannes Elias, Konstantina Tsagkaratou, Martin Gsandtner, Millie Anderson, Nicolas Tornero, Shahd Abdelmoneim, Sven Torres, Thomas Bagnoli, Valentina Cerrone, Yihui Wu, Yuan Zhai, Martina Rosati, Arian Hakimi Nejad, Kate Revyakina, Vincent Konate, Neil Rigden, Juan Montiel, Christos Koukis, Jihan Shraibati, Patricia De Osma Arena, Shi Qi Tu, Irfan Bhakrani, Qiuru Pu
Landscape Design: Ramboll Dreisetl

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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