When architect Jay Siebenmorgen of international architecture firm NBBJ first arrived on Jiangxing Island in Nanjing, China ten years ago, “there was nothing there. It was basically farmland,” he recalls. Though centrally located on the Yangtze River just four miles from Nanjing’s central business district, the island was principally known for its grape-growing before 2009 when the Chinese government resolved to urbanize.
Today, the first major development, a nine-building campus—known as the Xin Wei Yi Technology Park on the renamed Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island—exemplifies not only China’s rapid pace of industrialization but an ambitious commitment to sustainability. Yet the design concepts were equally inspired by the past.
“Nanjing actually was the capital for many dynasties before World War II, so bringing local history was important, especially in Chinese government planning review,” explains Nancy Yin, NBBJ’s Asia projects director. “They will always ask, ‘What’s the meaning of this building in relation to our city?’”
For the project’s anchor, a nearly 260,000-square-foot exhibit hall, the architects took inspiration from the nearby Zhong and Stone Mountains for eight pitched roof forms, each affixed with a large tubular oculus—dubbed a “light cannon”—that helps naturally