Zaha Hadid Architects completed the Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre, a striking mixed-use facility that blends the firm’s iconic sinuous architecture with elements from traditional Chinese culture. Billed as China’s first completely top-down/ bottom-up tower construction, the entire center was constructed in just 34 months and is the largest glass-reinforced concrete development in the country. Sustainability is woven into the highly complex design from the optimization of natural ventilation and lighting to the use of a self-cleaning facade system.

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interior design of the Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre

With gross floor area totaling over five million square feet, the Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre boasts two tapering towers—Zaha Hadid Architects’ tallest completed towers to date—linked by a five-story mixed-use podium that contains the Cultural Centre. At 315 meters in height, the taller tower houses offices and the new Jumeirah Nanjing Hotel, while the shorter 255-meter tower includes a four-star hotel. The Cultural Center is divided into four main programs: a 2,100-seat Conference Hall, a 500-seat Auditorium, a Multifunctional Hall and Guest Zone; the independent volumes are organized around a central courtyard. Optimized for riverfront views, the development is located along the river in Hexi New Town as part of Nanjing’s new central business district.

person outside of the centre building

“The Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre harnessed the energy of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games to create a project with a lasting legacy that has enhanced and also regenerated its setting—acting as both an anchor and a catalyst for future investment in Nanjing’s Hexi New Town,” says Zaha Hadid Architects in a press release. “The cultural centre’s design is a three dimensional calligraphic composition that resonates with Nanjing’s 1,600-year-old tradition of Yunjin— the name given to the intricate brocade threading used by local craftsmen to weave the region’s acclaimed gold and silver fabrics. Like Yunjin thread, a continuous line interweaves throughout the cultural centre connecting it with its earthquake-resistant towers and beyond to the new central business district, riverside park and Jiangxinzhou Island.”

interior of the centre with visibility of intricate design and ceiling windows

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To reduce the development’s energy footprint, the architects optimized the layout to funnel natural light deep into the buildings. Passive design strategies were used, as were efficient cooling and heating systems and a flexible floor plan to maximize the project’s design life.

+ Zaha Hadid Architects

Photography by © Hufton+Crow via Zaha Hadid Architects

golden hued auditorium with rows of seats