XCOOP® / Rotterdam - Luxembourg / Architecture, Masterplanning, Design, Research and Development...

HEFEI UNIVERSITY - International Exchange Center

Status: Invited Competition
University VIP Hotel, Congress Center, Restaurants
Hefei (People Republic of China)

THE CITY - The University is located in Hefei, the province capital of Anhui in East China. Despite being a Provincial Capital, Hefei has only recently grown out of his poverty: new industrial developments are bringing the city to exciting resulted in new manufacturing jobs for technical school and college graduates.


View of the New International Exchange Center from East

Hefei is known as an important base of science and education in the country. Hefei University of Technology, which is directly under the Ministry of Education and is supported by the government under the "State 211 Project", represents one of the key universities in China.

THE UNIVERSITY - Founded in 1945, the University had invested a great effort in straightening its engineering department becoming one of the leading Universities in the country. The University offers five centers for post-doctoral studies and it is authorized to confer doctor degrees in 32 disciplines, master's in 93 disciplines and bachelor's in 63 disciplines.

THE SITE - The brief asks for the conceptual design of the Academic Exchange Center for the Heifei University of Technology. The Project occupies the site South of Yihuan Road (Tunxi Road) and South-West to Ma On Shan Road Interchange. A Metro station entrance is planned to the East as a gateway to the existing commercial and business center. The Project opens up South and West to the University Campus.


Study model (view from North-East)

THE BRIEF - The total available land area is of about 13 acres and the building's height limitation is of 100 meters. The site needs to provide for 250 parking spaces, for the most located underground together with electrical and mechanical equipment and logistics.

The Brief requires that the Design offers a general Masterplan strategy accommodating, on site, a Five Star Business Conference Hotel and several amenities.

The Hotel is the largest program with 300 rooms divided into Standard rooms, Luxurious rooms, Executive Suite, Presidential Suite.

Supporting Facilities, almost all located on the lower levels, will include catering, different flavor restaurants, convention centers and administration, entertainment and well-being.

THE ARCHITECTURE (VOLUMES) - With consideration to Client's pragmatism and site's limitations the proposed design rotates around one clear and essential volume: the rectangular cuboid. In mathematical literature the rectangular cuboid is a volume for which each of the faces is rectangle and each pair of adjacent faces meets in a right angle.

The choice of such clean and basic element is due to its strong emblematic character and stature. If placed vertical, standing on one of its shorter side, the cuboid elevates elegantly from the ground, rapidly reaching the 100 meters and conquering view and presence among its surrounding low scale neighbors. When resting horizontal, on its long faces, the volume is solid, continuous, easily addressing its users to enter it and explore it.

The two volumes are identical in size and the combination of the two results in a pleasant and comfortable iconic presence.


Identical volumes, specific relationships with the context

ORGANIZATION OF PROGRAMS - The standing cuboid is the Exclusive Hotel. The Main Hotel Lobby is located by the drop off on the East side of the site. Just before the access ramp to the parking, the visitor can be dropped off by the entrance of the tower and reach the Hotel Reception area. Standard rooms, both Twin as well as Queen size, are located at level 5 through level 19: their layout is rational and it maximizes the available space. These rooms are comfortable, well equipped, generous in size and suitable for short as well as for long stays.


Public spaces scattered around the complex


Open air Spa

A copious lobby located on the 20th level welcomes the Very Important People who, while waiting to be served, can enjoy an amazing view of Hefei and down to the open-air pool resting on the Plinth's roof. The more prestigious and spatial rooms are located above the 20th floor.


Circulation diagram

What we believe is exceptional in our proposal for the Hotel, is that we are able to achieve uniqueness and efficiency in each room. Along with the required array of diversity in type, we generate a vast range of small and individual changes within the same typologies, making the user experiencing an unparalleled involvement with the space.

All floor plans are based on the 45m2 minimal unit easily arranged into bigger units of 90m2. All Hotel floors are interrupted by just four columns: through time and in respond to Client's ever evolving need to remain competitive in the market, this structure will offer maximum flexibility of size, usage and configurations.

The laying body, more simply referred as the Plinth, contains the convenient facilities. At ground level the Ballroom and the Hotel Lobby are located at the extreme West and East sides, respectively.

The Ballroom, together with the Banquet and the two Multipurpose rooms located North and South from the Central Passage, can be flexibly arranged. They can be four independent spaces as well as one enormous area for big and formal events. Each room, respectively, can open-up or close-off to its nearby program, extend or contract according to needs.


Flexible and combinable spaces

The large Administration Program is compactly organized by the South East side under the Hotel Tower. Additionally from the Brief, the proposal includes a small retail area inside the Plinth at street level.

Level 2 is occupied by conference rooms and small meeting areas. Level 3 hosts the Chinese and the Western Restaurant while level 4 terminates the Plinth program with well-being, gym and relaxation areas. This level is partially open to the Sky when away from the Tower providing with a surprising open-close arrangement.

As a counterweight, the underground levels are occupied by 180 parking spots, load and unload facilities, bicycle racks, logistics and machinery. At least 10 temporary parking places and 50 permanent lots are accommodated on ground level and within site's property. In general, all Plinth's floors accommodate dining areas.

CIRCULATION - The visitor accesses the Plinth from all sides: major entrances are located by the Ballroom (North and South), by the VIP Lobby placed by the VIP drop-off on the North, by the Hotel Lobby entryways on the North, the East and the South sides.

While exceptionally the set of lift placed by the VIP Lobby is dedicated to escort Important People to their prestigious destinations, in most days it allows for an easy and full circulation within the Plinth.

The Hotel is accessible by the core located by the Hotel Reception Hall. The same core allows other users of the building to reach the upper levels of the Plinth.

At ground floor, the essential inside circulation is user friendly and occurs along a wide main passage connecting the Ballroom to the Hotel Lobby. Both extremes are tipple high and allow a good view penetration of the upper Plinth levels.

Visual connection and full Plinth's experience is provided by the breathtaking voids populating the higher levels. Views are deep and intense and simplify movements within the volume: activities are open and well visible from the main gathering areas at ground floor. The Facade of the Hotel volume is also dramatically and beautifully visible from the Passage.

From levels 2 through 3 the circulation is mostly circular around the large voids. Additionally to the loop-like movement around the cores, at level 4 a sequence of inside-outside situations add value to the visitor's experience of the building. Visually, all upper levels are connected to the Ballroom, the Hotel Lobby and to the large central Passage.

Also in the Hotel Tower, the proposed design organizes its movement around the core leaving light and views to the rooms distributed along the facade.


Plan Level 5


Plan Level 17


Plan Level 20

Visitor's parking is located at level -1: access and exit ramps are located East from the building and adjacent to the property line. Vehicular circulation is straight forward: from Tunxi Road the driver decides whether to drop-off its passengers at one of the two drop-off areas or to continue straight down to the parking. Machinery Room and Logistics located at level -2 are reachable by both passenger's lifts and one service lift in the cores.

Outside, the pedestrian movement occurs along and around the Plinth and at the base of the Tower. Special attention has been give to the relationship inside-outside of the Ballroom which, at times, attempts to communicate with the two contiguous squares. Finally, the cores behave cohesively yet playfully in the space connecting the building throughout.


Long Section

MASTERPLAN - The project's intention is to provide as much public and usable space as possible to the building and to its campus community. The new intervention ought not to be an obstacle between this part of the city and the University but, on the contrary, a continuous outdoor landscape. In line with this idea, the Ballroom becomes the protagonist in translating this objective tracing continuation with the nearby outdoor squares.


Landscape strategy

There is a 2 meter high difference on site: the new landscape takes advantage of this altitude difference by locating the new building on a risen platform hence setting it even further apart from the jammed Tunxi Road.

By the Hotel Lobby, the access ramp to the parking is screened by vertical vegetation. Level 4 is furnished by outdoor faculties.

FACADE + STRUCTURES + MATERIALS The proposed building uses two facade system. Both facades are strongly identifiable and unique in their architectural intention. The main structure develops on a 8.40 meter grid system: this grid is rather economical and flexible.


Structural elements

The Plinth's facade features a screen printed panel wall design with 4mm thin slabs of local travertine stone mounted on the outer glass panel of the curtain wall. The facade creates a translucent feel as light and shadows glow through the marble to highlight the openness and lightness of the interior. The facade create an interesting environment at the street level. The pattern screen printed on the facade panels is a Chinese floral abstraction.


Equal volumes, different facades


Plinth interior facade

As the light intensity changes throughout the day, so does the appearance of the facade. During the night time, the light from the inside spaces filters through the facade in different directions to light the structure. Even if the Plinth is only 24 meter high, it can be distinguished from as far.


Plinth interior

Above, the Hotel Tower is elevated and it seems like is floating in air. Its facade is intelligible, built up by concrete structural mullions uninterruptedly running the whole length. The look is spectacular in its sever iconic beauty!

In its completeness, the visitor can immediately recognize the building!


Night bird-eye view from North-West


Bird-eye view from North-East

SUSTAINABILITY - Benefiting from all the knowledge of an intelligent design, the Team's environmental philosophy stands on solid simplicity without giving up a luxurious atmosphere.

First and for most, the design generates a pleasant place to be and experience. This is, to begin with, the prime quality the designers want to offer to their Client and to the user of the building.

In the Plinth, maximizing natural light penetration through translucent paneling lays perfectly in line with a state-of-the-art-energy saving environment. Spaces are well lit and clearly uniform.

Furthermore, on Level 4, the intensity of the entertainment program is balanced by an efficient use of vegetation and water in the patios cooling off the air and the use of the Sky-Light to draw hot air up and outside. The Plinth is continuously ventilated with exchanged fresh air yielding a pleasant and balance inside temperature.

We believe that the green element on the roof will also improve air quality in Hefei that during the spring diminishes due to the farmers outside the city burning their fields in preparation for planting the next crop.

In the Hotel, the 1.10 meter floor package hosts a system of pipes between the structure and the false ceiling, which captures fresh air in, distributes it and collects hot air back into the system. The cycle maintains rooms ventilated and avoids condensation within the floor.

On the roof, at 100 meters high and where the mechanical room is located, we are placing sufficient Photovoltaic panels to generate electricity.

Generally speaking, and despite the busy program, the simple design grants for a relative low maintenance building's management.

THE CONCLUSION - Hefei University of Technology has a history of over 60 years. Through time, the University has created a fine tradition of learning and a pleasant atmosphere throughout its campus. Hefei University of Technology has a determinate vigor of growth. The integration of A.I. among its landscape vocabulary will reinforce its identity and will lead both the University as well as Hefei to a bright well accountable future both in knowledge as well as in the local economy.


Ground Floor plan


First Floor plan


Second Floor plan


Third Floor plan

Credits: Andrea Bertassi, Cristina C. Murphy, Siebe Voogt, Dace Gurecka, Anastasia Nechalioti, Paco Maron with United Design Group Shanghai (Local Architect)