Last edited 10 Nov 2020




[edit] Introduction

In February 2016, London-based PLP Architecture unveiled their masterplans for Chinese project 'Nexus' that promises to transform the possibilities of skyscraper design.

Proposed for an undisclosed site in the Pearl River Delta, China, the concept for the structure is a supertall tower composed of three rotated, interlocking volumes. It is presented as an alternative to the high-rise point tower typology where a large central core is surrounded by usable space.

As PLP state in the project brochure, ‘In these kinds of buildings, the usual rich mix of internal spatial qualities: flexibility, views, and vertical movement are sacrificed to create an economy of scale of uniformly repeated floors with only minor variations in geometry in order to sculpt an external shape.

‘To confront this tendency Nexus starts by looking at how architecture is occupied and lived from within, favouring the users who daily inhabit the structure. If the aim is to create a series of spaces that offer flexible conditions capable of responding to the needs of each tenant – rather than adapting office practices to the constraints of an inflexible floorplan – then the relation between core and building needs to be reformulated.’

[edit] Structure

The building, with a proposed total height of 595m, is formed by three wings. The structure works as an outrigger - a centrally-located gravity core supported laterally by three perimeter cores that provide stability. The central and perimeter cores are coupled together by trusses located at the MEP/refuge floors.

The idea is that all the corewalls and columns act together to transmit the gravity load to the foundation. With the structural elements placed at the outermost locations of the tower, the structural system becomes more effective and efficient in resisting the lateral wind and seismic loading. Leaving aside the idea of a single object and instead breaking the building down into several volumes of the same structure, combined to create a solution similar to a tripod, problems of stability are reduced.

The lower wing of 44 floors is rotated to get the best views of the park nearby, while the middle wing raised to 83 floors is rotated towards the business district of the city, and the upper wing up to 124 floors is orientated to get the best views of the mountains.

Together, the three parts form a propeller-like configuration with three equidistant axes, non-hierarchical in plan.


(Image copyright - Tegmark)

[edit] Building in-use and sustainability

The Nexus building is primarily for office use, but it has a retail podium of 8 storeys, and a 14 storey signature hotel at the top.

Because of its height, vertical transport relies on shuttle lifts operating in a way similar to a metro system - not on demand but on a determined frequent schedule.

The configuration promotes rhythms of occupation that are more typical in mid-rise buildings but unlikely to be found in traditional high-rise buildings.

The relatively narrow floors arranged in the Y-shaped configuration, provide environments filled with extraordinary levels of daylight and spectacular double aspect views. The designers believe that this, together with the integration of a hybrid ventilation system within the high-performance building envelope, will help make the Nexus building the first structure of its kind to achieve high levels of passive 'green' design.


(Image copyright - Vyonyx)

[edit] Passive design

One of the primary design goals in shaping the orientation and formation of the Nexus building is minimising solar heat load in order to reduce energy use. The height and orientation of the three volumes that make up the building allows four-fifths of the envelope to be shaded or self-shaded from the low western sun. To further mitigate western sun exposure, the façade is striated with a saw-tooth pattern that points away from the building. On select envelopes the short surface of this pattern is solid whilst moveable panels can fold out at peak afternoon hours to act as additional sun barriers.

[edit] The Platform for Contemporary Arts

The main volume of the building is a platform elevated to a height of approximately 35 m. The building is supported via three legs which provide both lateral stability and vertical support for the building. A concrete frame/steel truss structure with mega-frame system will form the outer building hull and the large span cantilevers.

The platform is designed to be a modern theatre facility, with 1,700 seats, music hall, multi-purpose performance space and multiplex.

The building is lifted off the ground to create a floating platform freeing up the space underneath for public use. The landscape of the park is extended into this space to connect to the west and, as the platform rises upwards, water is released cascading back down towards the park.


(Image copyright - Luxigon)

Content for this article was provided by PLP Architecture.

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