Crafting the Vessel

Lei Li
Director
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, New York City

After conclusion of land bid process, KPF led the architectural design work on CITIC Tower. The Beijing municipal government desired an iconic tower rooted in Chinese Culture, yet also fitting to the modern city. Apart from responding to the urban setting, balancing form and program within structural constraint of the highest seismic fortification requirement amongst China’s major cities, the most challenging design issue was how to interpret the“China Zun”brief that would lead to a design harmonious with the historic capital but also forward looking and dynamic.

While keeping the overall hourglass shape of the land bid design, KPF reinterpreted the cultural reference as a malleable shell and used it as a generative design framework. The shaping and articulation techniques of the bronze vessels is distilled and explored in crafting various aspects of the tower. These include pulling and lifting of tower shell to form the integrated canopy, spherical carving to create the gently undulating top, stretching of the shell texture echoing the form, shaping of the main lobby and tower top hall space that integrates the exterior geometry into the interior, and sculpting of smaller elements such as the mega support and entrance vestibules, etc.

The resulting gently rising and curving form embodies the historic capital’s gracefulness, while the constant movement and key transformations create forward looking gestures and dynamism.