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Huanghai Forest International Conference Center


Huanghai Forest International Conference Center

Huanghai Seaside National Forest Park, located in Dongtai City, Jiangsu Province, was originally established as the Dongtai Forest Farm in 1965. After nearly 60 years of artificial afforestation and landform transformation, it has become the largest man-made ecological forest park in East China. It has been approved as a national forest park and a national 4A-level scenic area. In order to balance the construction of infrastructure within the forest park and the preservation of its natural ecological landscape, newly built public projects within the forest park need to not only meet the requirements within the limited construction land, but also respect the natural landscape and explore the forest's unique features.

This is not just a single architectural design, but a holistic design that requires a systematic approach, with the conference function as the core, integrating architecture, landscape, and tourism. The goal is to create a high-quality and flexible international conference complex, shaping a new natural ecological identity for Huanghai Forest Park.

1. Project Overview

The Huanghai Forest International Conference Center is located on the south side of Sanxiang River and north of Meiju Hotel. With a total above-ground floor area of approximately 18,000 square meters, its main function is focused on conferences, with supporting services from both the conference and hotel facilities. While meeting the functional requirements of a large conference space, it is important to respect the natural landscape of Huanghai Forest Park as much as possible. Guests attending conferences should be able to fully appreciate and experience the natural scenery on the south side of Sanxiang River, avoiding large building volumes blocking or obstructing the natural beauty of the forest park. The challenge lies in balancing the beautiful natural scenery within the forest park and the substantial size and closed nature of a typical conference building. This contradiction becomes a feature of the project and is addressed in the design.

2. Three Approaches to Incorporating Nature

How can we showcase the beauty of Huanghai Forest's ecology to the fullest while meeting the requirements of a large conference space? The design addresses this challenge through three approaches.

First, breaking down the building mass: The conference function and the supporting dining services within the building are divided into two zones, east and west, resembling leaves in a forest. They blend with the landscaped green areas in a natural and compact curved form. An internal street corridor provides access to the riverside landscape, creating more outdoor viewing interfaces for the building and connecting the public plaza on the south side of the building to the natural surroundings. There are reception areas and vertical transportation between the east and west zones, along with a three-dimensional outdoor green corridor surrounding these zones, allowing for a 360-degree panoramic view of the forest park's natural scenery and providing direct access from the outdoor space to the public spaces on each level of the east and west zones. This approach reduces the building mass, eliminates barriers to the natural landscape, and allows for a compact yet free-flowing architectural form.

Secondly, the colors of the building are inspired by the colors of the surrounding vegetation in Huanghai Forest Park throughout the four seasons. The building's main body transitions from varying shades of green during spring and summer to yellow hues during autumn and winter, allowing it to blend seamlessly with the natural landscape changes of the forest park throughout the year. Additionally, to create a more natural transition between the artificial colored facade and the surrounding forest environment, three-dimensional greenery is also incorporated on the exterior of the elevated corridors, allowing the building facade to merge with the colors of the forest vegetation.

Thirdly, the design aims to bring the outdoors into the interior space, increasing the connection between indoor spaces and the outdoor natural environment. Various levels of the east and west zones are designed to have convenient access to the elevated green corridors, outdoor platforms, and courtyards, encouraging users of the building to appreciate the natural landscapes of Huanghai Forest Park in different seasons and locations during their leisure time between meetings and dining. The interconnected elevated corridors link the east zone, reading area, and west zone, providing both a panoramic walking path for the public to enjoy the forest park without entering the interior of the building and convenient pathways connecting different levels of the three zones. Along the vertical corridor, planting troughs are also integrated into the facade, adding a three-dimensional green element that resembles dancing leaves to the conference complex, showcasing the building while blending harmoniously with the environment.

3. Sustainable Design and Low Carbon Operation

The overall design of the building provides a foundation for sustainable design. It maximizes natural lighting and ventilation for the indoor spaces and allows for flexible partitioning, facilitating independent operation and reducing operational energy consumption.

Functionally, the project is divided into three zones: the east zone for conferences, the central zone for a reading area, and the west zone for supporting facilities. The east zone focuses on high-quality multifunctional government conferences, with a multi-purpose hall on the ground floor covering approximately 1,200 square meters, capable of accommodating nearly a thousand people. The multi-purpose hall can be used as a whole or divided into three independent conference areas. The second and mezzanine floors are equipped with VIP reception rooms and several small meeting rooms, serving as supporting facilities for the multifunctional conference hall. The third floor features a banquet hall and a rooftop courtyard, serving both as venues for conference-related banquets and separate meeting spaces. All conference-related rooms in the east zone are equipped with high-quality audiovisual and conference systems, while the interior design provides professional acoustic and optical environments for various conference modes.

The central zone functions as an independent popular bookstore space and a public reception area, directing guests participating in activities upon their arrival at the conference complex. Additionally, the central zone serves as the core for vertical transportation, connecting the rooftop banquet hall in the east zone with the open-air rooftop platform in the west zone, facilitating independent access to the rooftop water bar and pool in the west zone at night without entering the interior of the east and west zones.

The west zone's three levels primarily serve as dining and business service facilities, including a themed restaurant on the first level, restaurant private rooms on the second level, and a business club on the third level. There is also a 270-degree panoramic hidden-edge swimming pool and a music bar on the rooftop. These facilities not only serve the conference complex but also complement the hotel on the south side, enhancing the overall supporting service functions of the area.

By utilizing the aforementioned segmented layout and reducing the building volume while meeting functional requirements, the design maximizes natural lighting and ventilation on the building's exterior surfaces, taking into account external shading combined with the overall shape. These design strategies contribute to reducing the building's operational energy consumption and align with the requirements for low-carbon operation. The curved membrane structure canopy on the top optimizes the outdoor wind environment of the rooftop courtyard and provides better outdoor space quality through shading and lighting, meeting various public cultural activity needs and increasing the utilization rate of the rooftop space.

Without deliberately benchmarking or increasing additional costs, the project has achieved a two-star green building rating. The overall project adopts prefabricated steel structure with a prefabrication rate of 62.5%. The main structure, external curtain wall system, and internal sound-absorbing materials all use recyclable and reusable green and low-carbon building materials, promoting overall carbon reduction throughout the building's lifecycle.

With a 650-meter-long outdoor green corridor, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of natural beauty and directly access the public spaces on each level from the outdoors. The versatile design allows the east and west zones to operate independently, facilitating subsequent partition usage management and reducing operational energy consumption, thus embodying the concept of low-carbon development.

4. Public Accessibility:

The interior of the building serves as an international and specialized conference center, while the exterior acts as a welcoming open observation tower. The dual identity and posture, particularly for a public-service building located within a national forest park, are of utmost importance. As an internationally recognized and professionally-oriented conference center, it inevitably occupies precious construction land resources within the forest park. However, with the support of the owner, we have avoided turning it into a cold and arrogant landmark palace. Instead, we have transformed it into a "mountain" that visitors can ascend, enjoying the beautiful park scenery along the way. They can occasionally pause to relax in the central area's reading bar or proceed to the rooftop water bar in the west zone for drinks and a scenic view. Whether there is a conference taking place or not, this building remains open and readily serves the visitors who come to Huanghai Forest Park, becoming a public attraction within the forest park.

This undoubtedly contributes to a low-carbon operational model for the building. Even if the east zone is closed due to the absence of conferences, or if the dining and business facilities in the west zone are temporarily closed, the public can still experience the "three-dimensional grey space" reserved for the forest park by the building at any time.