When visualizing the new Galaxy Soho building by London firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, one is transported into the future. All that is missing is the buzz of hover cars zooming in and around the four dome-like structures that make up this visionary complex. Located in Beijing, Galaxy Soho is a 330,000-square-metre retail, office, and entertainment complex that exemplifies Zaha Hadid’s impeccable eye for using nature’s lines and rhythms as inspiration for contemporary design. Most recently known for the design and creation of the 2012 London Olympic Aquatics Center, Zaha Hadid has continued to broaden the capacity of architectural design. Her work is not static, boxy, or current. Instead, her vision goes beyond what we know to be current, contemporary design and plunges it into the imaginative possibilities of the future. Every project is an organic moment in time captured in a still frame. The viewer can picture where it came from and where it may go, making these functional spaces expressive pieces of livable sculpture. Motion is a key thematic concept seen throughout the body of work this visionary artist has steadily developed and the new Galaxy Soho in Beijing is no exception. Eighteen floors of multi-functional, intimate spaces directly parallel the constantly interactive and dynamic nature of Beijing.
The design of the space is grounded in four pod/dome-like structures that flow and connect through a series of bridges, curved floor planes, and material harmony. The structural interaction between these four separate domes creates various courtyards and a larger central space reminiscent of the inner canyons of an underground cave. Three below ground floors lend themselves precisely to this idea and function as retail space surrounding the courtyards with high-end boutiques and stores. These courtyards also recall traditional Chinese architecture in which the interaction among a continuum of courtyards and open spaces creates a volumetric flow rather than a structural blocking of functional space. Visitors are invited to wander and discover what lies deep within the curvilinear walls of the lower plateaus.
The undulating curves continue through contour lines, which are created literally through the windows that visually separate each floor. The structure as a whole has the resulting feeling of a topographical landscape drawing. Floors four through fifteen are comprised of office spaces while restaurants and café’s reside in the upper levels: functionally a perfect response to the multiple levels of contemporary Beijing. Materials are ever so important in creating this seamless contemporary landscape through the exterior use of aluminum and stone and the interior use of stainless steel, glass, terrazzo, and glass reinforced gypsum.
Zaha Hadid and her firm celebrated the completion of Galaxy Soho with 15,000 guests from around the world. Although Galaxy Soho may stretch beyond our imagination and into the perplexity of the future, it is sure to become a landmark instillation of functional art in central Beijing today.