Year of the Billboard
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Located on the banks of the Chang River in central China, Chongqing is typically foggy and gray. It's far less so, however, since the completion of the Jianianhua Center. Built at the gateway to the city, the mixed-use project is a billboard for commercial and civic ends—its name loosely translates as celebrating the good years. The 538,000-square-foot structure breaks down, on a more literal level, into two components organized around a C-shape atrium. An eight-story retail block is the one wrapped on four sides by the graphic element; a slender tower with 15 floors of office and retail space rises at the back.
The supergraphics were no afterthought. Ditching digital for analog from the start, associate partners Michael Duncan and Lonny Israel opted for a low-tech solution: three-sided vertical louvers characteristic of kinetic billboards worldwide. Vinyl-printed imagery is applied, like wallpaper, to each aluminum surface. Then a computer takes over, rotating sets of louvers individually every 11 seconds to create a constantly changing picture. "It's a gentle transformation, like choreography," Israel says. "Or a lava lamp in your living room."
Sandwiched between glazed panels in some places, the graphics can be read from public areas inside the building. Through the gaps left by the louvers, an adjacent park can also be glimpsed. "The treatment elevates the graphics from mere advertising," Duncan notes. An abstract floral went up in 2005. Its successor, Year of the Dog, was developer Chongqing Financial Street Real Estate Co.'s New Year's gift to the city for 2006.