“It’s a dusty, dirty, and foggy city,” says Michael Duncan, an associate partner at the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), describing Chongqing. But he notes another aspect of the city that is just as prominent: ubiquitous billboards that give Chongqing something of a “Times Square quality” and compensate for the sometimes bleak backdrop. Commissioned to design a new building for the Jiangbei commercial district, SOM interpreted these two competing aspects and produced a project that mixes office space, a shopping mall, and dazzling graphics.
Completed in 2005 and already the icon of a redevelopment area, the Jianianhua Center combines a 15-story office tower with an 8-story retail block at the center of a new park. SOM took advantage of the interplay between the park and people working indoors by keeping the office building largely transparent and simply sheathed in glass curtainwall. By contrast, the firm treated the retail volume as a colorful gift box wrapped with 2,000 meters of enclosed, changing billboards.