A giant glittering glass lantern has risen in Beijing. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) designed the Poly International Plaza, a three-tower complex located midway between the Forbidden City and the Beijing Capital Airport. The tallest tower draws inspiration from Chinese paper lanterns for its continuous diagrid pattern that shimmers like a jewel and helps lower the building’s energy footprint.
Winner of two 2017 Architizer A+Awards, the Poly International Plaza was completed in 2016 shortly after the Beijing Greenland Center, another SOM-designed energy-efficient glass tower. China Poly Group, one of the country’s largest state-supervised conglomerates, commissioned the commercial project. The client specified a modern and elegant building that, in the words of Poly executive Zhang Wei, would “make [their] company more famous.”
The Poly International Plaza comprises three elliptical towers connected underground. The eye-catching central tower is nicknamed the Diamond Lantern and rises to a height of 499 feet and is clad in a steel-and-concrete diagrid exoskeleton with angled glass. The two smaller buildings on either side reach heights of 275 feet and 220 feet and are covered in vertical grids of dark metal rods.
SOM writes: “The exoskeleton structural system forms an outer thermal envelope around the office spaces, which are enclosed within a second glazed interior envelope. This creates daylit communal areas that accommodate meetings and foster social interaction, while establishing physical and visual connections between floors. The long-span structural design not only opens up the interior, creating a column-free work environment, but also employs a highly sustainable architectural/mechanical approach to address the climatic and air quality challenges particular to Beijing.”
Images via SOM, photos by Bruce Damonte