The Sliced Porosity Block in the Chengdu province of China is an exemplary achievement not only for green architecture but also for public space design.
At the crossing point of two of the busiest routes of China’s bustling Chengdu province, stands a gleaming new totem. The SHA Raffles City, aka The Sliced Porosity Block, is wildly unpredictable in shape and direction, but is also quaintly sturdy in its overall look.
This sprawling block encompasses 3 million square metres of precious city scape within its embrace, and manages to be beautiful inspite of all its bulk. This is a public space within a public space, home to five towering structures that look like unfinished Lego masterpieces; a hotel; many restaurants and cafes; and offices and service apartments. But even with a floor spread so large, The Sliced Porosity Block is most remarkable for its commitment to eco-friendliness.
In most commercially dynamic cities of the world, concrete rules the roost. Efforts like The Sliced Porosity Block attempt to break this bleak landscape with carefully planned fresh air sprawls at intersections.
The SHA Raffles City, created by the team from Steven Holls Architects has an impressive green report card. The location of the block ensures proximity to the arterial routes of the city; it is directly connected to the Metro’s Line 1 and is close to 12 public bus lines. Reducing the prospect of reliance on private transport is hardly ever the concern of an architectural firm, even for the green loving ones, but SHA cements its forward-thinking approach by making this a priority here.
Within the precinct, there is fastidious efficiency, even at the spots where the white concrete lines don’t follow a linear path. Natural light is abundant, even within the towers it is given lee way by expansive gaps. There are three ponds that create their own breakaway ambience in the campus, while the non-flowering Ginkgos, the gloriously flowering Osmanthus and the reliable Bamboo provide for visible green relief.
All water is utilised to the best possible extent here, with both rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling being an intrinsic part of the design scheme. This is used for all the flushing and low-level plumbing needs, reducing the need for potable water by 43%.
A staggering 468 wells, all 90-odd metres deep, form the geothermal energy apparatus that provide heating and cooling for the commercial establishments in the block. On top of all of this, carbon dioxide is monitored and interior lighting is carefully used and kept functioning efficiently throughout. The resultant saving on overall energy is 20%.
The block also has a beautiful poetic heart to it. The central plaza area is split into 3 ‘valleys’, in deference to the local poet Du Fu’s memorable line: “From the northeast storm-tossed to the southwest, time has left stranded in Three Valleys.
The three fountains here have been christened ‘Fountain of the Chinese Calendar Year’, ‘Fountain of Twelve Months’, and ‘Fountain of Thirty Days’.They catch all the brilliance of the raving mad light sources, especially of the fluorescent blue veinal structure that splits one of the towers bang at its chest.
This is the ‘Light Pavilion’ by American artist-architect, Lebbeus Woods. Another spot of visual brilliance here is found at the ‘Local Art Pavilion’, which has been designed by Chinese sculptor, Han Meilin.
The Sliced Porosity Block is a brilliant addition to a country teeming with icons of hi-tech engineering and design prowess. Its look is sophisticated and clean, with so many zig-zagging lines, gaps, slopes and peaks adding that all-important verve.
It is a public space, so it has to appeal to a plethora of expectations – it has to entertain the modernist, the minimalist, the nature-lover, the casual café lounger, the stressed corporate professional, the children who still love to run out and play, and the senior citizenry which adores a spot of quiet in the midst of cacophony.
The SHA Raffles City is revolutionary because it manages to provide for all these needs, while keeping up eco-friendly credentials good enough for a LEED Gold Certification by the United States Green Building Council. Its example demands many repeats.