Lucky coins, a Tetris stack and a ferris wheel 500m up in the air … take a look at the buildings around the world with holes right through them.
by Oliver Wainwright –
The lucky golden hole
As if a giant cable reel had rolled into town and come to rest on the banks of the Pearl River, the newly completed Guangzhou Circle towers 138m above southern China’s largest city like a great copper spool. Housing the world’s largest stock exchange for raw plastic material, it is the work of Italian architect Joseph di Pasquale, who says the form “will be immediately perceived as a native Chinese landmark.” Because it’s big and brash and dressed in a spangly Christmas jumper? Maybe, but also because it is “inspired by the strong iconic value of jade discs and numerological tradition of feng shui.” How so? Because not only does the 50m-wide hole punched through the centre make it look like an ancient Chinese coin, but when the building is reflected in the river it forms the lucky number eight. And an infinity symbol. And the insignia of ancient dynasty that reigned in this area 2,000 years ago.
The “iconic ring-shape” hole
A new luxury spring resort on the edge of Taihu lake in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, the Sheraton Huzhou shows that it’s not only western architects that are capable of bringing clunking orientalist symbolism to Asian shores. Designed by Beijing-based MAD Architects, the 27-storey ovoid arch apparently draws on the ancient humpback bridges of the region, and has been souped-up into a space-age glass and steel loop. “Huzhou itself is a place famous for traditional ink paintings and splendid water views, and the arch bridge is one of the key elements of traditional architecture,” says the building’s architect, Ma Yansong. “By incorporating this iconic ring-shape, my goal was to design a contemporary resort that seamlessly integrates with the surrounding environment while evoking the beautiful arch bridge over Taihu Lake.”
The melty hole
Modelled on what might happen to an ice cube left out in Dubai’s midday sun, the Opus tower by Zaha Hadid looks like an office block mid-thaw, as if buckling under the heat of the financial meltdown. Planned for the centre of Dubai’s Business Bay, it is in fact two blocks, say the architects, conceived as “a single cube eroded by a free-form void, which appears to ‘hover’ above ground level.” A pixelated reflective facade makes it look solid by day, while by night, it “dematerialises, as light floods the void”. Launched at the British Museum in pre-crash euphoria, when the model was dramatically revealed from a block of ice, it has since been on hold – although may soon return, its innards effortlessly transformed from offices to a luxury hotel.
The sky-high piazza hole
Designed as an entire city block flipped 90 degrees, the Mirador apartment tower, by Superdutch dreamers MVRDV, erupted on to Madrid’s skyline in 2005 as a vertical stack of neighbourhoods, each with its own colour combo and joined by an eye-searingly orange route of stairs and corridors. And what lies at the centre of every good neighbourhood, but a big open space? So the architects duly flipped that too, creating a “look-out” 40m above ground, an outdoor piazza and a community garden for “monumentalising life and space”. It’s just a shame most parents find the 12-storey drop a bit of an off-putting place to let their toddlers loose.
The broody pixelated hole
It looks like someone had a wild time with the shipping container crane in Hamburg docks. Either that, or OMA is in town. Conceived as a great pile of Tetris blocks stacked in a crooked loop, the Hamburg Science Centrewas planned for the entrance to Magdeburger harbour in 2004, and would have included an aquarium, science theatre and exhibition spaces. Ever the pragmatists, OMA justified the form on purely practical grounds, explaining that “the function of the 10 blocks that make up the building allow for large-scale programmatic changes on a daily basis.” And, by pure subliminal coincidence, it bore a striking resemblance to a sculpture outside OMA’s Rotterdam HQ.
The portal-to-another-dimension hole
More of a hole with a building around it than a building with a hole in it, La Grande Arche de la Défense terminates the end of Paris’s great Axe historique with a monumental void, big enough to hold Notre Dame cathedral. Designed by Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen in the 1980s, it was the winning scheme in a competition for a “modern Arc de Triomphe”, conceived as a “monument to humanity” rather than military victory. As if trying to suck the entire French capital in through its gaping mouth, it stands like a sinister portal to another dimension, subtly tilted off axis to connect with the Eiffel and Montparnasse Towers and the Louvre, forming a grand masonic geometry of which Baron Haussman would be proud.
The spiralling worm-hole
A 57m cube of Swiss cheese would be a fine thing to behold, and that seems to be what Bjarke Ingels and his merry band at BIG are aiming for with their proposal for a Technology, Entertainment & Knowledge Centre, or TEK, in Taiwan. A great shed of shops, showrooms, offices, conference rooms, exhibition spaces, restaurants and galleries, it is livened up by having a spiralling wormhole drilled all the way through the building, designed to suck the public in through its irresistible vortex. The entire block will be clad with step-spaced concrete fins that recede inwards, allowing people to climb into the facade and walk all the way up to the roof.
The sinister Eye-of-Sauron hole
When the architects of Shanghai’s 500m-tall World Financial Centrebegan to worry about wind loading at the top of their twisting tower, they did what any sensible person would do and just cut a big hole out of the top to let the wind go through it. The hole was originally going to be round, with a plan to install a ferris wheel inside it, but costs – and the potential terror factor of spinning around 500m in the air – meant the plan was binned. Still, despite looking like it might shoot out an Eye of Sauron deathray any second, it will make a nifty bottle-opener when the giants arrive.
Oh and another pixelated hole
How to reunite East and West Berlin with a big new media headquarters? A massive pixelated hole is the answer proposed by Buro Ole Scheeren– because, in the hands of the ex-OMA wunderkind, a gap can also be a bridge. “At the core of the new building floats an urban-scale void, establishing a visual axis between former East and West and conceptually reuniting the two sides,” says the architect. “The building emerges as a symbol of transparency and historic awareness.” But this gaping chasm, punched out of the heart of the building, is not any old hole: it’s a “’collaborative cloud’, reuniting a multiplicity of enterprises in a space of shared digital identity.’” Because of course, where buildings with holes in are concerned, “identity is defined not as an object, but as space – a physical void is carved to create flexible permeable places for imagination, collaboration, and interaction.”