Through the unexpected application of common billboard technology, a kinetic eight-story graphic facade has turned Jianianhua Center, a mixed-use retail and office complex in the heart of Chongqing, into a notable symbol of the Chinese port city's revitalization.
Jianianhua Center: A Facade Becomes Art
A dynamic landmark
Building a backdrop
With its colorful rotating three-sided billboard — the largest in the world — Jianianhua Center provided a celebratory backdrop for the opening of the city's new park and public plaza and has since established a unique and enlivening presence in Chongqing's central business district.
An urban flowerbox
As the building neared completion, the client commissioned SOM to design its first graphic, which was unveiled as a gift to the city at the Chinese New Year festival in 2005. Titled One Hundred Flowers Blooming, the scheme, an urban flowerbox, was visualized through 148 individual panels of eye-popping shades of red, green, and blue.
A symbolic canvas
The design celebrated the coming of spring and captured the ultimate symbol of good fortune in Chinese culture — 1000 simultaneously blooming flowers.
Mounted on a system of rotating louvers, the abstract flower images move slowly in choreographed patterns behind the glass wall.
Implying an image with space
Rather than a solid wall of revolving panels, the louvers are spaced in specific locations to allow views from the café and the escalator landings without compromising the integrity of the supergraphic when viewed from the exterior.
A fractured abstraction
While SOM designed distinct graphics for each side of the triangular panels, the active facade offers a seemingly endless combination of abstract patterns and color sequences through the programmed rotation of 148 individual panels.
Blurring the line between building and media
By having the louver system behind the glass curtain wall, the building and graphic becomes a single unit. This system allows the facade to change continuously and easily, corresponding with the change in seasons, time of day, or in honor of a special event.
Looking to tradition
The idea was such a success, SOM was asked the following year to create a new graphic to ring in the Year of the Dog in 2006. This time, the team looked to the traditional Chinese craft of paper cutting for inspiration and once again designed three vibrant schemes that created a kaleidoscopic mix of color.
An urban signal
The graphic team worked closely with the architects to make sure the facade would reinforce the city's urban strategy. The images are both a way of visualizing the intense vitality of the city center and a strategy to help the building stand out using non-commercial graphics.
Architecture that transforms
In elevating a common billboard to public art, the SOM graphic design team has not only re-imagined a canvas for mixing art, advertising, and cultural expression, but also created an architecture that can transform its character, color, and identity for an entire city.