HIL / Shenzhen Hilltown

After being designated a special economic zone in 1979, Shenzhen underwent a tremendous change in landscape. This hyper-urbanization- one of the most intense and rapid in the history of cities- resulted in the once hilly village flattened by a city-center filled with nondescript architectural boxes. Shenzhen is now experiencing a second development boom that is expanding peripherally to level even more land for future development. Shenzhen Hilltown is a residential mountain range that seeks to reconnect Shenzhen with the natural silhouettes that once formed its skyline.

Located on a plot that is one small part of a larger mixed-use development, the project brief outlined 150,000m2 separated into six towers: five rental apartments and one hotel, with ground floor retail. By reconfiguring the original masterplan to maximize efficiency, we arrived at a mountainous form that arises out of the constraints of site and program.

During our programmatic organization, we discovered that the building heights recommended in the masterplan were internally proportional in almost the same way as the peaks of China’s five sacred mountains (泰山, 华山, 衡山, 恒山, and嵩山 + one manmade ‘average’ which is the hotel). We used this insight to adapt the tower pinnacles accordingly, creating a 1:15 scale model of China’s most famous mountains.

As an amenity for the residents of Shenzhen Hilltown, the central floorslab becomes a continuous exercise deck that grants stairway access to the peaks. Designed around an Olympic running track- which coincidentally was a perfect fit in the site dimensions- the exercise deck features a badminton court, ping-pong tables, a swimming pool, and other sport facilities. The exercise deck is a solution that satisfies the fire code requirement for a refuge floor free of permanent structure-otherwise essentially an empty floor- by combining several smaller gym program into one large, shared activity platform where residents can engage with their neighbors and mix together; reestablishing the sense of community that has been lost in traditional isolated residential tower design.

The stairwells of each tower core are integrated into the overall exercise circulation, turning an otherwise underused infrastructure into a 3D hiking trail with over 2,500 stairs for those who are up for the challenge. Scaling the hotel stairs grants a special reward- a 360° viewing platform that oversees the entire development. This adaptively fritted Panorama Peak becomes a dynamic sun-tracking beacon throughout the day, like a reverse lighthouse.

The building envelope is a responsive sun diagram, adopting six different approaches to sun control- each mountain tower has its own way of dealing with the solar insolation depending on orientation (fritted, operable, parametric window size, tint, louver, Low-E).

The courtyard gently slopes to reveal underground commercial program with direct access to parking: a recreation valley at the heart of the site.