Located in the Ertan dam in the Yalong river of Sichuan, the building transcends location as it reformulates an artificial site that becomes part of a unified natural environment. The limit between the city and nature is defined and intensified by the presence of the dam. The smooth transition between the horizontal and the vertical explores how the building’s form interacts with the horizon line. At the same time this highlights the sculptural monumentality that a dam has due of its considerable scale and its simple form and connects it with the verticality of a tall building.
The motion of water and wind forms the building. The three towers appear to evolve from the dam and develop a vertical topography on an artificial hill. By narrowing the limits of the anchored towers these acquire a lightness, despite being large structures in the landscape. Flowing visual and spatial references define the overall sturdiness of the particular concept between dynamics and orthogonality.
At the functional level the design exploits the huge tank of water in order to provide a solution for the building’s cooling, combining it with integrated systems of energy production. Energy efficiency takes advantage of the enormous pressure of water created by the big reservoir and also of the gravitational force of falling water.
A. The flow of water inside the building in combination with the atrium strengthens a linear airflow pattern following the “venturi” principle. Temperature of funneled air is furthered lowered through the contact with the stream and aligned with it, air intakes draw cool air to the mechanical shafts which is then distributed through the building’s ventilation system.
B. Waterfall phases:
Phase 1 – The stream that runs inside the building overflows a tank and the falling water runs on the curtain wall of office branch in order to cool the façade during daytime.
Phase 2 – At night when visual communication is not required since the work areas do not operate, the flow of water increases creating a waterfall that produces energy on the hydroelectricity principle, making use of the height difference between the two waterways.
C: The power station that is located on the base of the dam produces energy by guiding the water pressure to the turbine.
Structural system is composed by the curved concrete surfaces of the dam that turn to form the sides of towers as well as a series of structural ribs. These structural vertical elements form the louvers that shade the building, the channels for the water flow for the bottom part of the towers and also they channel the air that reaches to the building top where the air turbines are located.
The linear arrangement organizes a continuous structural grid, which is apparent in the entire complex and underlines the vertical movement of the waterfall as well as the fluidity of water and air as natural elements. Coherently, the approach to the design and accommodation of the wind turbines is emphasized by the concentration of ribs to a formation of a windscreen at the very top of the building. The overall continuity is both visual and programmatic with the paths and spatial layout designed organically connected. Infrastructure becomes an integral part of the complex as it runs through the top of the dam. A roadway and an electric railway system connect the complex with the city and provide the main access points to the towers. Using as a focal point the “Sky lobby”, traffic is distributed to the upper (living) and lower (working) limits of the building.
The curved surface of the dam acts as a solar reflector as the shape of parabolic dish reflects the light to the lower back part of the towers. Water pipes are embedded on the concrete roof of the Research Center and take advantage of concrete thermal mass to provide heated water for the needs of the complex.