Guangzhou Vanke Cloud City Phase 2 is a pioneer mixed-use development that includes a diverse blend of affordable housing, small apartments, incubator offices, a shopping mall, and a middle school. Even with all these different elements, the landscape architects, Atelier Scale, formulated a complete and rich “pixel community” with a unified landscape framework. Located in the nonwestern corner, it is called Tetris Square. The framework is based on a pixelated grid system that not only provides flexible use space but also maintains a strong community identity.
Ph. Holi, Xi Tang, Feimin Song
A Mini Park
Even though it is built in front of a commercial plaza, Tetris Square is designed as a park, connecting Cloud City and adjacent communities. There are playgrounds for different ages on both sides of the square corridor, catering to the desires of its major users, families. The Family Pocket is a place where kids and parents interact with a series of hammocks. Free Island is a three-dimensional play facility for kids to explore spaces and exercise their bodies. Other design elements such as the Cloud Curtain, the Cloud Mount, and the Cloud Pavilion provide more possibilities for young people and parents to choose from. The amphitheater in front of the shopping mall not only provides event spaces for commercial activities but can also serve as an outdoor classroom for the middle school. Linking this series of spaces, with all their various programs, forms a mini-park that serves the adjacent community.
A Living Grove
Compared to a traditional commercial plaza, Tetris Square has a decent number of trees. The landscape architects “hide” this grove by integrating it into the play facility. This does not follow the traditional design principle of a commercial plaza, which is to plant as few trees as possible to optimize storefront views. The strategy is successful, as it mingles people and shade in the shopping mall area, which is especially important for this tropical and humid climate. From the sidewalks approaching the shopping mall, the trees are arranged in a dense-to-sparse gradient order, with openings that lead to the mall. Two fully developed trees sit on each side of the main corridor, enhancing the visual beauty of the corridor. At the same time, the spaces of the Family Pocket and Free Island are designed and developed based on the presence of these two trees. Groves of trees around the Cloud Curtain, sand pool, and the Cloud Mount provide varying degrees of shade for children and parents.
A Cost-Saving Strategy
In this project, a low construction budget was not seen as a constraint or an embarrassment; and on the contrary, it was one of the main driving forces of the design principles. The grid system of squares not only makes material fabrication and arrangement much cheaper, but it also makes construction costs more predictable and controllable, especially in China where construction quality is often unpredictable. Assembled precast concrete outdoor furniture is used extensively. Atelier Scale designed only two basic precast concrete modules, which could be mixed and matched, and assembled into more than twenty different combinations.
Ph. Holi, Xi Tang, Feimin Song
Users can select the most comfortable furniture combination to meet their needs, which appeals strongly to a younger user and their inclinations. Besides precast concrete furniture, the architects also selected precast concrete pavers for paving the site. This decision was driven by economic reasons, as the precast units are about one-third of the stone paver’s unit price in the current market, but also for environmental considerations, as natural stone is over-exploited in China.
DATE: 2017-2019 / LOCATION: Guangzhou, China / AREA: m2 (built) / PROGRAM: public square / STATUS: built / DESIGN: Atelier Scale / DESIGN TEAM: Huicheng Zhong, Feimin Song, Hao Lan, YoungJoon Choi, Shaozhong Yuan, Wanlu Ye, Liujun Deng, Bingru Xiao, Yongkai Shen / CLIENT: Guangzhou Vanke / PHOTOS: Holi, Xi Tang, Feimin Song