Herzog & de Meuron
Project
2005

As always with projects in China, everything moves rapidly and one finds oneself suddenly confronting a new place, a new client and new problems – in short, a new world. This world was exceptionally new and strange and big in Qingdao, a location virtually unknown in the West although it is a metropolitan city of some 7 million inhabitants.

Despite its substantial size, Qingdao has yet to put its landscape and urban potential to use. The bay facing the city and the Xuejiadao Peninsula has the most beautiful beaches in China and possess a rare and rich potential for resorts, housing and culture. The construction of the Film Academy is intended to exert a decisive influence on the perception and competitiveness of Qingdao nationally and internationally.

An Ambitious Programme

The Beijing Film Academy Qingdao School of Creative Media will be the new campus for the Beijing Film Academy. The ambitious plan as put forward by the brief is to build “the future development centre of film culture for China, Asia and the world”. It will become the first film media institute with an entirely new profile focused largely on high-tech movies and TV in China. The curriculum will cover computer-based special effects, simulation design, advertising art, artistic design, post-production, network games and more. Teaching activities will be combined with medals and awards such as the “Institute Award”. The Campus will also become a centre for production, post-production and an experimental field for movies and TV, as in the Youth Film Studio.

Interaction with an ecological preserve
The project is located on the shores of an ecological preserve, at the centre of the important Qingdao Economic & Technological Development Zone in the south of Shandong Province of China. The 340,000m2 site is defined to the north by the rocky shoreline of Haixi Bay and to the south by the sandy Golden Beach of the Yellow Sea.

In keeping with the ecological development principle defined by the Qingdao municipal government and planning bureau, the master plan is based on the unique natural ecological resources of the area. The project integrates the existing topography, natural waterfront conditions and landscape planning policy.

An Architecture of In-between Spaces

Initially we worked at simultaneously developing several urban and typological proposals. The one that we preferred and the client liked best turned out to be the simplest and superficially most banal – a one-story arrangement that would cover almost the entire plot of land like a fishing village. The elements were laid out like programmed dominoes and accessed by a simple network of lanes and streets. Every single component could be individually formed and subsequently enlarged or downsized to meet changing needs without compromising the overall form.

However, it soon became apparent that the desire to make the complex a visible urban landmark for the city of Qingdao would require vertical reorientation. One thing was clear, we did not want a compact architectural structure and most certainly not a single building with a rigidly defined form. We were much more interested in a fragmented structure whose appearance would change both inside and outside depending on the angle of view.

So we took from the elements of the one-story plan that we initially developed – referred to as the “stones of the programme” – and superimposed them in layers to form three “piles”, each emphasising different functions (main public functions combined with teaching and learning, production, living quarters). Although the layering was initially random, the new idea looked very promising as a whole. Interestingly enough, in the ensuing phase of design, we focused primarily on the spaces in between the “stones” that is the programme, in other words, on the empty spaces both inside and outside the emerging complex.

Tracking shots with a micro video camera supplied us with the information we needed in order to improve our understanding of the complex and organise the originally naïve and random structure. The microcamera was also helpful in coming to terms with questions of scale because it enabled us to explore as if we were standing in real space instead of always looking down from above, as you do when you build a sand castle.

It is no accident that the architectural design of the spaces was deeply influenced by these micro tracking shots. Three specific places resulted that are related to the world and above all to film technology (cutting, zooming in and out, depth and perspective, etc.). They are assembled to form a structural topography, which organises the different spans and cantilevers within a complex geometrical grid and simplifies access and orientation in this labyrinthine like space.

Three Piles in the Landscape

The new landscape of the site is conceived as a conglomeration of three piles – like three mountains or three rocks – naturally placed in the hilly setting and yet also contrasting with the natural topography of the site. Each of the piles are different in shape and programming and will be clearly visible from three main viewpoints: northwest from the bay, south from the open sea and southwest from the street. They will define a skyline for Xuejia Island and Qingdao, which should be appropriate for the Beijing Film Academy’s ambitious plans.

The pile in the South (Pile A), oriented to the street and the beach, contains the main public functions. On the lower ground floor, there are restaurants and shops with the Grand Theatre hovering above the main entrance; the International Communication Centre evolves into a crater-like tower and the Club forms the peak. Student facilities, the Student Centre, the Library and teaching facilities are housed in the back section of the pile.

The pile for Making and Production (Pile B) contains large-scale studio halls and production rooms. We have moved it up to the north-east of the site where direct access to the expressway meets the need to transport and deliver materials and large equipment.

The structure of the third pile (Pile C) will be especially conceived to integrate the student dormitories and facilities. The landscaping of the interstitial space created by the three piles will consist largely of water and trees; existing and new ponds will be integrated to create a waterscape for recreation and sport.

With reference to the existing master plan of Xuejiadao, we will extend the planned green belt along the beach side of the Island into the site. A forest of pine trees surround, infiltrate and extend the volumes of the piles, blurring the transition between built and unbuilt and linking this new park to the landscape beyond the site.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2005

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Process

The Film Academy is to be built at one of China’s most beautiful beaches with its driftwood and rock formations. The architects visit the site with Ai Weiwei.

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Sketches, drawings, and photomontages show the layout of the buildings for the enormously complex brief of the Film Academy.

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The specified elements are cut out of foam, laid out, and assembled in clusters.

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Studies on the connections and structural engineering of the individual blocks.

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The brief divided into three units; studies on pile A (bottom right) addressing important functions on the coast.

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Cross section of pile A.

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Large-scale models. A micro camera provides realistic impressions of the interior.

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The project on concluding the feasibility study.

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Realization of the Film Academy by Chinese firms without Herzog & de Meuron, but based on their ideas.

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Team

Facts

In Collaboration With
Ai Weiwei, Beijing, China
Client
Qingdao Omnipresent Culture Development Corporation Limited, Qingdao Economic & Technical Development Zone, China
Planning
Architect Planning: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Structural Engineering: WGG Schnetzer Puskas Ingenieure, Heinrich Schnetzer, Basel, Switzerland
Mechanical Engineering: Waldhauser Haustechnik AG, Basel, Switzerland
Building Data
Site Area: 3'659'726 sqft, 340'000 sqm
Gross floor area (GFA): 2'459'335 sqft, 228'480 sqm

Bibliography

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: “Herzog & de Meuron 2005-2007. The Complete Works. Volume 6.” Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel, Birkhäuser, 2018.

Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2007.” 2nd rev. ed. Madrid, Arquitectura Viva, 2007.

Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.): “Architecture and Urbanism. Herzog & de Meuron 2002-2006.” Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 08.2006