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OLI creates a floating campus in Suzhou with facades realized in glass and GFRC

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Design Architect: OLI Architecture
Suzhou, China
Completion Date: 2023

Floating over a reflecting pool in Suzhou, China, the Ascentage Pharmaceutical Headquarters, designed by New York–based OLI Architecture, stretches upward beneath a unique, parametric exterior facade. Created for a young Hong Kong pharmaceutical company, the glass facade references the hexagonal structure of a benzene ring to create a visually interesting and modern way to skin the interrelated buildings on the new 147,000-square-meter research and manufacturing complex.

The design is influenced by an interesting intersection of modern genetic science and traditional Suzhou scholar’s garden. As in these gardens, the focus of the design brings attention to the water, specifically the black Shanxi granite reflecting pool, which makes the gently curved, transparent buildings of the complex feel like they’re floating. This is juxtaposed with a geometric honeycomb-like pattern on the facade, which through its shape highlights the genetic research performed by the company. The pattern is based on the ring that annotates the bonds between disparate carbon and hydrogen molecules. It was designed using adaptive BIM families and stretches upward throughout the building skin.

A bold, sinuous ramp resembling a traditional Chinese scholar’s garden zig-zag bridge leads researchers over the water and into the lobby. (Zhonghai Shen)
The water feature acts as a base uniting the different campus buildings and their varying glass and facade patterns. (Zhonghai Shen)

OLI Architects principal Hiroshi Okamoto told AN that “the clinical and high-tech feel … is purposefully softened by the careful composition of building scale, height, and facade pattern diversity.” Beyond the pattern, the distinctive use of glass on the facade was envisioned to strike an optimal balance of transparency and privacy. Integrated sun shading and careful interior programming of building floor levels and orientations make maximum use of these high-performance insulated glass units (IGUs): The majority of the buildings employ a double-layer curtain wall system, which uses double silver low emissivity (low-e) insulated glass units on the inner side and varying densities of ultra-high strength concrete panels and aluminum extrusions on the outside—these create the hexagonal overlay.