A dynamic yet stable vehicle: Suzhou Tram Co. Headquarters
This project represents a major commitment by the Suzhou City Government to public transport generally and to light-rail or tram technology in particular. Located on the site of their new tram warehouse and maintenance facilities, it is embedded in the heart of their primary business activity – the supply, management and maintenance of a public tramway system.
To compete with the advances being made in the design of private transportation, public transport, the vehicles and importantly the administration and infrastructure that supports those vehicles, must embrace the latest technology and the best that contemporary design has to offer. Public transport has to get as sexy as private transport.
The best current (private and) public vehicles are complex multifunctional machines that integrate a variety of technological, engineering and aesthetic issues within a singular clear formal expression. For moving objects this singular expression is generally about moving through a medium (generally air or water) efficiently and with the least resistance as possible.
The program for this project is surprisingly diverse with technical control galleries, educational spaces, recreation facilities, office spaces, and residential accommodation – this is not a typical commercial office building.
Rather than the easy option of expressing these differences, this project, like the vehicles provided by the organization, explores the inclusion of these diverse programs within a singular clear formal expression. In this case the aesthetic issue is not driven by minimizing resistance to air or water, but rather resistance to the perception that the technologies and engineering that this organization are dealing with are from the previous century – static, boring and out of date. The building becomes a vehicle for dynamic yet stable programs.
The building is clad with a high technology skin consisting of two layers. This first layer is a waterproof layer of glass. The second layer is a metal wrap spaced away form the first layer which contains the solar control, which assists in achieving a China 3 Star Sustainability Rating.
The colour of the wrap gives the building a visual heaviness, but this heaviness is undermined by the fact that it is made of thin metal floating a distance from the glass wall. The building transforms itself from an on-ground horizontal podium with a sunken courtyard, into a stack of varying floor areas that form a dynamic yet stable tower.