The Shanghai West Bund Biennial for Architecture and Contemporary Art, China, officially opened this week. Based on the themes Reflecta and Fabrica, the biennial showcases contemporary architecture, art and theatre. Schmidt hammer lassen architects were invited to design pavilions alongside some of China’s most respected architects and selected international architectural practices, including the 2012 Pritzker Prize winner Wang Shu.
The contribution of schmidt hammer lassen architects consists of an art installation pavilion, The Cloud, and a composition of pavilions containing support facilities including a café, a gallery and a bookshop. The pavilions are placed adjacent to one of two industrial cranes on the Xuhui West Bank Riverside.
The tall crane stands as an icon that people all over the world can recognize and relate to and symbolizes balance, performance and gravity. The aim of the art installation pavilion, The Cloud, is to amplify and contrast these qualities. “The Cloud pavilion is the quintessence of lightness, immateriality and fuzziness,” explained Kristian Lars Ahlmark, partner at schmidt hammer lassen architects.
By following the path along the riverside, visitors are led to The Cloud and can walk through it as part of their stroll through the biennial area. A clear visual connection to the history and the industrial nature of the site is created by the support facility pavilions. These are clad in Corten steel. Their colour and texture underline the pavilions’ relation to the industrial heritage.
The shape and orientation of the pavilions were determined by the views towards the nearby bridge, the crane and the river. While The Cloud is intended for experience, interaction and activity, the support facility pavilions are for contemplation, rest and relaxation.
“We have collaborated with the client, Xuhui Development Corporation, on a number of projects in and around the West Bank site in Shanghai and these projects are all still in design development. The biennial pavilions, however, were conceived, designed and built in only three months, which is a massive achievement and a sign of good collaboration between the client, Tongji University and schmidt hammer lassen architects,” stated Chris Hardie, of schmidt hammer lassen architects.
The Shanghai West Bund Biennial for Architecture and Contemporary Art is promoting Shanghai as a centre for architecture and fine art. Yung Ho Chang (Zhang Yonghe), former head of the Department of Architecture at MIT and one of China’s most respected architects, is the overall curator for the biennial, which will run from 19 October to 19 December 2013.
Schmidt hammerlassen architects has just relocated to larger office facilities in Shanghai and has experienced an increasing success in Asia. Current projects include Green Valley, a sustainable regeneration project on the former Shanghai World Expo site, a headquarters for the Ningbo Daily Media Group and a redevelopment of a former coal storage building, which will become a new art gallery and museum for an international art dealer.