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Mecanoo, China, Shenzhen

A New Landmark in Shenzhen: Cultural Centre by Mecanoo

Since it was declared a special economic zone in 1980, the city of Shenzhen has rapidly expanded. More than 12 million people now call Shenzhen home; many live in the countless high-rises that characterize the urban image. The Longgang Cultural Centre by Mecanoo stands on a long, narrow lot and functions as a gate between two different zones of the city. For a metropolis such as Shenzhen, even a city gate must be larger than life: this one is 400 m long and 50 m wide.

The structure consists of four volumes arranged lengthways in a row to form a coherent ensemble that presents itself on all sides. Each of the volumes is devoted to a different cultural institution. The gleaming red façade of the building, which is connected underground, features rounded edges and sloping exterior walls that create public plazas extending between the volumes. These act both as sheltered entrances and as venues for events that can take place outdoors thanks to Shenzhen’s subtropical climate.

At 35,000 m², a mall just for books takes up the most space at the Longgang Cultural Centre. Cafés, restaurants and event rooms offer venues for readings, signings and other book-related activities. The centre is also home to a museum devoted to art and urban planning, a science centre whose exhibitions are directed particularly at children and teenagers, and a youth centre that is a meeting place, away from school, where kids can make music or enjoy sports together.

In many places inside the centre, the in-situ concrete structure of the façade can be experienced at its fullest height, for the rooms are set away from the façade. Joists and supports are visible. Rather like the formers in the hull of a ship, they also reveal the construction. “It is like being able to see a cast concrete sculpture from the inside”, say the architects from Mecanoo.

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