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Coop Himmelb(l)au and Snøhetta win twin competitions in Xingtai, China

Flying the Coop

Coop Himmelb(l)au and Snøhetta win twin competitions in Xingtai, China

Who says the post–Guggenheim Bilbao era of bombastic, sculptural buildings is over? The spirit of the ’00s lives on in the results of twin competitions for a pair of large cultural buildings in Xingtai, a city of more than one million people in northern China.

Coop Himmelb(l)au‘s winning design for the Xingtai Science and Technology Museum resembles a daring cantilevered sandwich, while Snøhetta went with a somewhat more subdued design for the Xingtai Grand Theatre. The news was announced last week by the China Building Centre (CBC), the group that organized the competition.

Himmelb(l)au’s design includes a lot of the firm’s signature moves—a soaring cantilevered roof, undulating surfaces, rippling skins, and colliding geometries—but the scheme bears more than a passing resemblance to other layered rectangular buildings that band a public landscape in between two thickened slabs. The Xingtai renderings call to mind Mecanoo’s recently completed National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts and OMA’s never-built Agadir Convention Center. It looks like this sandwich will have more of a filling than the Mecanoo building, though—Himmelb(l)au’s renderings show the middle as lush, rolling parkland.

Snøhetta’s design goes for fewer formal gymnastics than Himmelb(l)au’s but still features a bit of flash. Its main component appears to be a long curved plaza that turns into a ramp that follows the twist of a shimmering facade behind which a soaring atrium awaits visitors.

The organizers have not yet announced a timeline for construction.