The urgent need for dense housing in China due to a booming economy and the displacement of many residents who resided near the Yangtze River dam leaves little room or time to design creatively. In this climate, Steven Holl Architects has created a welcome contrast to mass-housing compounds with the new Linked Hybrid development. The 210,000-square-meter complex contains more than 700 apartments, plus commercial spaces, a hotel, a cinema, a kindergarten, and underground parking.

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Sitting on 6.18 hectares (that’s 15.27 acres) of land adjacent to the old city wall of Beijing, the eight towers which comprise Linked Hybrid will house one of the largest geothermal cooling and heating systems in the world. Water circulating from 100 meters below ground will be pumped through the buildings’ concrete floors, heating the complex in winter and cooling it in summer; there are no boilers to supply heat and no electrical air conditioners.

Linked Hybrid effectively forms a city within the city. The 20th floor of all of the buildings connect to one another via an open architectural ring filled with enough cafes and services to support the daily life of over 2,500 inhabitants. Plans for the complex include a “Garden of Mounds” – five semi-public landscaped recreational areas that will be monitored by electronic access through residents’ cards. The Mound of Childhood will be integrated with the kindergarten, the Mound of Adolescence will include a basketball court as well as a rollerblade and skateboard area, the Mound of Middle Age has both a coffee and tea house as well as Tai Chi platforms and tennis courts, the Mound of Old Age has a reading lounge and exercise machine park, and finally the Mound of Infinity is slated to become a meditation area with pavilions representing the five Chinese elements: earth, wood, metal, fire and water.

To give a sense of individuality and personal design to the residents in this new urban landscape, Steven Holl Architects has incorporated a huge variety of apartment layouts for the 728 different living spaces. Linked Hybrid, which began construction in November 2005 and is scheduled for completion in 2008, has been called “an ultra-modern expression of 21st Century living.” Indeed, we’ve never seen anything quite like it.

+ Steven Holl Architects