Design Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Nicolas Pomränke
Project leader Clemens Kampermann
Team, competition Jan Peter Deml, Thomas Muncke, Dimitri Philippe, Burkhard Pick, Anastasiya Vitusevych, Qin Wei, Xu Ji, Thilo Zehme, Yin Zhang, Katarzyna Zaczek
Team, implementation Andreas Goetze, Dimitri Philippe, Kristin Schoyerer, Xu Ji, Yin Zhang, Wei Zhilin, Astrid Jahncke
On June 23rd, the foundation stone was laid for the new headquarters of the vip.com online group in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Stephan Schütz attended the ceremony as the partner representing gmp, von Gerkan, Marg und Partners Architects. At the beginning of the year, gmp won the international competition for the project and was subsequently commissioned to begin construction.
vip.com is one of China’s most successful E-commerce companies. This rapidly growing concern is establishing its new headquarters in Guangzhou’s “Internet Innovation Zone” in the Pazhou district, which is an island in the Pearl River southeast of the city center. This area, which includes the grounds for the Canton Fair, has been designated a new trade and service district dedicated to Internet companies with supplementary leisure facilities.
The corporate culture at vip.com is dynamic with flat hierarchies. Architecturally, this calls for large, flexible spaces that can be diversely populated and rapidly converted while permitting various organizational forms of office use. In terms of design, the building was developed as a horizontally layered office landscape that bridges the streets to connect all three building sites on the angular parcel. With this as the basis, the overall cubature and arrangement of the vertical access points were developed with a view to providing a maximum number of office spaces with attractive views of the river and city.
The building’s individual functional areas appear as stacked volumes offset by vertical apertures and by floors with special functions that take the form of “seams.” The first of these seams located on the fourth floor signals the interface between external and internal functions, serving as a meeting place for visitors and employees that includes a conference center, exhibition spaces, and catering facilities. This area is open to both the building interior and the platform projecting out toward the Pearl River. As a public space with a welcoming quality, it connects the building to the waterfront via broad flights of stairs and to a park in the east whose design is an integral part of the project.
Just above the “meeting zone” in the stacked block are the office zones for the company’s individual teams. Here, another special floor is dedicated to informal interactions, including recreational areas, a library, fitness areas, and planted outdoor terraces. The two slender 130 and 172 meter towers emerging from this base structure accommodate both a hotel for employees and guests and, in the case of the taller tower, rooms for administration and management.
The overall character of the architecture is determined by the façade, which is kept deliberately simple and is horizontally articulated with floor-to-ceiling windows. Casement windows that can be opened allow natural ventilation of all workstations. For the predominantly young and creative staff, the result is a variety of work environments that are both interconnected and connected to the outside. In terms of urban design, the building appears as a full-scale composition of individually discernable cubes whose special identity is established by the way it specifically addresses its users and location.