Pondering Beijing's Quirky, Tetris-Like Wanda Plaza

By Dominique Wong, April 18, 2017

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Urban planning guidelines forbid the construction of “bizarre” and “odd-shaped” buildings that are devoid of character or cultural heritage. On the Block is a monthly series where we gather opinions on some of the unusual architecture that remains, from both a design and civilian viewpoint.


Wanda Plaza, Dawanglu

The Building

Completed in 2007 and designed by GMP Architects, Jianguo Lu’s Wanda Plaza covers 155,000sqm, part of which includes the headquarters for the Chinese multinational conglomerate Wanda Group. The quirky two-volume structure looks like giant Tetris blocks, with a collection of 104-meter high vertical towers marked by deep undersides and sprouting from a flat base. Offices and hotels occupy the towers while the horizontal platform is used for commercial purposes. Thanks to the plaza’s distinctive shape and immense size, it attracts plenty of attention from the ground.

The Residents’ View

Next to Wanda Plaza a security guard surnamed Chen observes that it is “a large building.” Nearby salesperson Xiao says: “The structure is quite fine; from the outside it looks good and makes me want to go inside and have a look.” Less enthused is Xu, a young man “enjoying the sun” in front of the plaza, who says: “It’s OK. Beijing’s big buildings are all about the same; apart from the ‘Wanda’ mark, it looks similar to the other buildings.”

The Architect’s View

Arch Stone Studio founder Zhao Chen muses: “For a large-scale construction that will be used for many purposes, a designer’s biggest test is choosing the right concept. This determines whether the end design will be successful or not.” In the case of Wanda Plaza, Zhao sees its design “adhering to a ‘continuous space’ concept. As an open space the area allows for flexible commercial use. It demonstrates the architectural philosophy of being in ‘constant flux.’

“The detailed facade has a powerful effect, due to the building’s curtain wall [non-structural outer covering]. A landmark of Dawang Lu, the plaza laid the foundation for the area to flourish into a business center,” he says before concluding: “It's a part of the third phase of China’s building development urbanization, but it is also the third generation of ‘Wanda’ representation, resulting in companies all over the country trying to study its template.” 

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