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Nordic — Office of Architecture completes spiraling wetlands tower in Nanchang

Making Waves

Nordic — Office of Architecture completes spiraling wetlands tower in Nanchang

Oslo-headquartered firm Nordic — Office of Architecture has completed Nanchang Waves, a “waterscape”-inspired cultural and commercial complex near a sprawling residential development in Nanchang, the capital city of eastern China’s landlocked Jiangxi province.

Located adjacent to Elephant Lake Wetland Park, the complex encompasses a gross built area of nearly 63,000 square feet amongst an undulating landscape of plazas, public gardens, and al fresco gathering spaces including an outdoor amphitheater.

Meant to serve as a bustling, multi-functional community hub for local residents, the rooftop garden-topped main building of Nanchang Waves, which “forms a continuation of the landscape elements in three dimensions through the language of stretched curves and waves,” is home to retail, commercial, gallery, and event spaces.

a cultural complex surrounded by wetlands in china
(© schranimage/Courtesy Nordic — Office of Architecture)

Bookending the sinuous, squat volume is the highly conspicuous pièce de résistance of Nanchang Waves: A corkscrewing observation tower that rises 115 feet above the surrounding wetlands and, per the architects, “represents the blueprint for future living and the new spirit of the city.” According to the project’s structural engineer Ramboll Group, the tower’s “UFO-like” observation deck, accessible via a 23 foot wide double-helix spiral staircase, spans just over 7,000 square feet.

diagram of a complex in nanchang, China
(Courtesy Nordic — Office of Architecture)

Nordic — Office of Architecture elaborates on the tower:

“Nanchang has a long tradition of towers, such as the Teng Wang Pavilion, one of the three most famous buildings in Jiangnan, and the Shenjin Pagoda, which has stood here for thousands of years, and when gazing out from the viewing tower one can see the Wanshou Pagoda, located in the wetland park. The viewing tower responds to this local culture of towers and has itself become a new landmark, representing modern life in Nanchang.

The double spiral staircase serves a greater function than simply allowing one to get up and down from the viewing tower. It is an interesting journey in itself, curving around and providing wonderful vistas along the way. When reaching the top, one enters the observation deck, where people can get an unparalleled view of the natural landscape of the nearby wetlands, admire the city skyline in the distance, and experience the changing landscape at sunrise and sunset.”

As the architects explain, the design of the three distinct zones within Nanchang Waves—a unique “spatial experience where the building and the landscape blend together”—corresponds with a different natural element: water (the front public plaza), earth (the commercial/retail spaces), and sky (the observation tower, naturally).

function diagram on mixed-use complex in nanchang, china
(Courtesy Nordic — Office of Architecture)

While a bulk of Nordic — Office of Architecture’s output (heavy on healthcare facilities and airports) has been completed in its native Norway, the firm, which also maintains studios in Reykjavik, London, and Copenhagen, has also taken on a growing number of projects further afield in addition to Nanchang Waves, which is its first completed building in China. Most notable is the newly completed Istanbul Airport, which features the largest passenger terminal in the world and was designed in partnership with British firms Grimshaw and Haptic.