Shanghai health center developed by NY architects as a ‘social condenser’

Steven Holl Architects, a New York-based architecture firm, completed the new Cofco Cultural and Health Center along Punan Canal in Shanghai’s Fengxian District. Photo courtesy Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl Architects, a New York-based architecture firm, completed the new Cofco cultural and health center along Punan Canal in Shanghai’s Fengxian District.

Designed as a “social condenser,” the center brings the community of the surrounding new housing blocks together in a public space and landscape. While the housing blocks are repetitive and extensive, the architecture is of spatial energy and openness, inviting the whole community in for recreational and cultural programs while health needs are provided by the integral health building.

“To work on architecture for culture and health is a social commitment, much needed in our current moment, as we continue to feel the global impacts of the pandemic,” said Steven Holl, founder of Steven Holl Architects.

In line with Shanghai’s post-covid architecture strategies, the project embraces green space, maximizing fresh air and natural light, and featuring open circulation and social spaces.

The landscape and two new public buildings are merged by the concept of “Clocks & Clouds,” a reference to philosopher Karl Popper’s famous 1965 lecture. The landscape is organized in large clock-like circles forming a central public space, and the buildings are cloud-like in their openness.

The cultural center, built out of light grey concrete, hovers over a transparent glass base which exposes the café, game, and recreation rooms. A curved ramp, climbing up to the second floor creates a continuous overlooking experience.

The health center, also made of light grey concrete, is shaped by the curves of the central landscape space, developing a strong relationship between its ‘cloud-like’ parts and the whole of the landscape. Both buildings have green sedum roofs merging further with the landscape when seen from above and in the surrounding apartment buildings.

The complex’s main sustainability measures include increased greenery and open space, use of 30 percent recycled materials, centralized heating and cooling systems, CO2 monitoring, thermal storage, and grey/rainwater retention and recycling.

The Cofco cultural and health center is included in Idea + Phenomena, an exhibition of the work of Steven Holl Architects on view at the Roca Beijing Gallery through October 16.

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