Powerhouse Company are known for their sensory rich approach to design, using conscious design choices to enhance the subconscious design experience. Their latest completed project is Paper Roof Reception Centre in Tianjin, China, which takes a fresh approach to tradition by playing with the form and function of traditional Chinese architecture.
The reception centre was built to showcase a new city district being developed beside Jin Hai Lake in Bin Hai. It comprises a sleek, two-story glass box structure situated under a dramatic canopy roof supported by slender pillar legs. The curved roof features upswept corners which are typical of traditional Chinese architecture and regarded as auspicious, in addition to having a functional component in deflecting rainwater. Here, they are presented in an inherently contemporary form, creating a striking visual effect that is fresh yet familiar and symbolizing the energy of the emerging city which will come to rise around the centre.
Aesthetically, the concept was for the roof to be as simple as a piece of paper. It is slim profile, held up on elegant legs only 45cm thick. The roof itself is 18.5 metres tall and 30x50 metres in area, extending 5 metres beyond the pavilion perimeter, encasing the airy glass structure in the protection of its post and beam design and anchoring it to the site. The roof beams are laid diagonally across the box below, creating a mesh-style covering reminiscent of a forest canopy and creating tree-like light and shade patterns across the pavilion and grounds.
Despite appearing light and near weightless, the canopy is actually constructed from powder-coated steel. The structure was welded together on site from prefabricated curved sections which are coloured the same blue as the sky, or the colour of heaven in a more traditional conception of infinite sky ceiling. Both the roof sections and portions of the glass façade of the pavilion were finished by hand to create highly polished surfaces.
The ground floor atrium level showcasing the public program is light and bright, with views to landscaped outdoor gardens and the surrounding lake. The upper level is a combination of private office areas and open viewing platforms. The concept is open plan, allowing flexibility for future usage to be adapted to new needs after the surrounding cityscape is completed.
The juxtaposition of the apparently weightless roof structure over the sleek but functional box underneath creates an iconic and aspirational identity within which the new city can be anchored. The overall effect is of an open, welcoming space that fuses a contemporary and energetic design aesthetic with appropriate reverence to tradition, both symbolically and functionally.