this 'sun tower' by OPEN architecture is meticulously sculpted by sunlight

this 'sun tower' by OPEN architecture is meticulously sculpted by sunlight

the ‘sun tower’ celebrates the coastal sunrise

 

new york and beijing-based studio OPEN architecture unveils the design of its ‘sun tower’ as construction begins in yantai. emerging along the shores of the yellow sea, the work will stand as a beacon, and will house a ground floor, semi-outdoor theater, a winding exhibition space, and a library in the sky. these many functions will all be housed beneath a unique semi-outdoor ‘phenomena space,’ at the top, which invites visitors to take in sweeping views of the sea and mountainous landscape throughout the year.

 

with its new landmark on the coast, the design team recalls the history of yantai, which means ‘beacon tower,’ and its ming dynasty-era watchtowers built to warn against attacks on the coastline. OPEN introduces its concrete sun tower as ‘a more purposeful structure, something that would evoke the ancient rituals of nature-worship while providing much-needed cultural facilities in the newly urbanised district.’ together with its nod toward history, the design is informed by the beautiful sunrise views across the yellow sea, for which the city is known.

open architecture sun tower
the building appears as a sectional cut
images courtesy of OPEN | @open.architecture

 

 

concrete shells sliced by sunlight

 

the ‘sun tower’ by OPEN architecture (see more here) takes shape as a large curving volume, its geometry directly informed by meticulous sun studies. the structure implies a truncated cone, appearing to have been sliced open by beams of light to reveal its section to the sea. rising fifty meters (164 feet), the sun tower sits within a gently sloping plaza. the building is a composite shell structure, the complex design, developed in close collaboration with engineering firm arup, will be constructed as two layers of slanted concrete shells, connected and braced by horizontal slabs and ramps.

 

opening out toward the horizon, the sun tower’s concave inner shell acts as a sound collector to absorb and amplify the sounds of the sea. the smaller upside-down upper shell hosts the light-filled library and the ‘phenomena space’ with a breathtaking view of the ocean and the sky above. a central oculus in the ceiling of the phenomena space allows rainwater to enter and fill a small pool underneath in the summer. in the winter, the pool will be dry and used as a fireplace.

open architecture sun towerbirds-eye view of the sun tower

 

 

li hu + huang wenjing, founding partners of open comment:today it’s so important to find ways to connect and embrace nature, we wanted to keep this central to the concept of the sun tower and pay respect to the power of the surrounding landscape. immediately when we conceived of the design we wanted to reference ancient human rituals, honouring the sun, moon, and stars, and offering a space for reflection and contemplation.

 

on the other hand, we also wanted to ensure the building had an authentic purpose and function, something that would be of benefit to the citizens of yantai rather than just a folly on the beach. creating spaces that juxtapose the incredible ocean views with the forward-thinking digital exhibitions that explore nature.’

open architecture sun tower
view of the library and lookouts

 

 

OPEN architecture’s ‘ruler of time’

 

at the sun tower’s ground floor plaza, OPEN architecture integrates a shallow pool which completes the work’s circular footprint. along with misting devices and spouting fountains, the area features a specially-designed water channel that cuts across the plaza. the team describes this channel as a ‘ruler of time,’ as it marks a straight line that the tower’s shadow will follow on the day of the equinox.

 

a series of elliptical rings are set in the pavement pattern — the intersections between the rings and the water channel mark the building shadow’s footprint at specific hours on the equinox day. at one of the outer rings, a series of fountains were designed to celebrate the 24 solar terms of the traditional chinese calendar. on normal days they are synced with high and low tides. these carefully planned water features add to the sense of liveliness, while also reflecting upon the city’s long history of oceanic culture which is rare in china.

open architecture sun towerramping exhibition space

 

 

in the early design phase, working with french firm dUCKS scéno (see more here), OPEN conceived the exhibition spaces inside the building with a focus on digital exhibitions and big data technologies, while simultaneously being an energizing force for the long-term growth of the new city.

 

aric chen, the current general and artistic director of het nieuwe instituut in rotterdam who, in his previous role as director of the D&I curatorial lab at tongji university in shanghai, consulted on the project from the curatorial perspective, working with open to develop this idea of a digital museum that would link the digital with the phenomenology.

 

aric chen comments: ‘OPEN has a remarkable ability to take on an architectural assignment and infuse it with meaning and purpose; in their hands, form follows content. from educational institutions to cultural projects across china, they’ve shown time and time again how architectural innovation and social innovation go hand in hand.’

OPEN-architecture-sun-tower-designboom-05a

space between upper and lower shells

open architecture sun towernighttime view from the city

OPEN-architecture-sun-tower-designboom-07a

phenomena-space

this 'sun tower' by OPEN architecture is meticulously sculpted by sunlight
semi-outdoor theater

this 'sun tower' by OPEN architecture is meticulously sculpted by sunlightview of library

 

 

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diagram: shadow movements during equinox
diagram: shadow movements during equinox
diagram: geometry sculpted by sunlight
diagram: geometry sculpted by sunlight
physical model showing ramp
physical model showing ramp
view of construction underway
view of construction underway
view of construction underway
view of construction underway
concrete mockup
concrete mockup
concrete mockup
concrete mockup
concrete mockup
concrete mockup

project info:

 

project title: sun tower

architecture: OPEN architecture | @open.architecture

location: yantai, shandong province, china

collaborator: dUCKS scéno

structural & MEP engineers: arup

awards: jeu d’esprit special prize of AR future project awards 2021

status: under construction

completion: expected 2024

visualizations, photography, drawings: courtesy of OPEN

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