James Nestor -- Interior Design, 11/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
The old news is that China is booming. The new news is that Beijing is positioning itself to supplant Hong Kong and Shanghai as Asia's political, cultural, and financial capital. This aspiration is solidified by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's sweeping Beijing Finance Street, an ultramodern city-within-a-city boasting 37 acres of shops, offices, and apartments. "There are so many different forms of architecture here," explains associate partner Lonny Israel, who specializes in environmental graphics. "We needed to find a way to develop a comprehensive program, something to tie all these areas together." Israel found his answer in the ginkgo trees of the 5-acre park at the district's heart. "The leaves stay gold for a very long time—and gold in general, that seemed an appropriate color," he says. The development's disparate districts are unified by a refined ginkgo-leaf marker that helps visually bind everything into a whole.
Israel's work went beyond signage to incorporate physical structures. Along with designing advertising kiosks and telephone stands—the latter a quaint anachronism in one of the most cellularized cities on the planet—his team collaborated with SOM architects on benches, tables, and other street furniture. The result is like China itself, unified by a common language while each area speaks its own dialect.
Clockwise from top left: Linking retail, residential, and park areas at Beijing Finance Street, a suite of identities comprises abstracted ginkgo leaves. Two versions of proposed ads show the retail identity in different colors. The same identifier appears on a mock-up of a shopping bag for the district. A study reveals the development process. Brand-specific ads can be combined with the retail identity.
Clockwise from top left: Developing street furniture involved both the graphics and architecture teams. One 22-story building houses corporate tenants. A study contrasts signage types with the street furniture. The building's lobby features an internally lit, 30-foot-tall screen of marble laminated with glass. A rendering shows how a tree grate incorporates the leaf motif.
PROJECT TEAM (GRAPHICS): BRAD THOMAS; ALAN SINCLAIR; ERIN OREILLY; RIC BLACKBURN. PROJECT TEAM (ARCHITECTURE): GENE SCHNAIR; CRAIG HARTMAN; MICHAEL DUNCAN; BILL PALUCH; PATRICIA YEH; FRANK GRIMA; KYE ARCHULETA; MASIS MESROPIAN; HENRY VLANIN; ANN POON; ULI KUTSCHKA. PROJECT TEAM (INTERIORS): TAMARA DINSMORE; CARMEN CARRASCO; SUZANNE LEBLANC. PROJECT TEAM (STRUCTURE): MARK SARKISIAN; NEVILLE MATHIAS. PROJECT TEAM (MEP): LUKE LEUNG; PHILIP SAWYER. CURTAIN WALL, SCREEN WALL FABRICATION: BEIJING JIANGHE CURTAIN WALL DECORATION ENGINEERING CO. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: THIRD CONSTRUCTION COMPANY OF CHINA CONSTRUCTION SECOND ENGINEERING BUREAU.