The design proposal for the Keelung New Harbor Service Building aims to reject grand architectural gestures that deliberately exist out of context for the sole intent of making a grandiose statement. ACDF Architecture rejects the use of elaborate sculptural forms that are fashionable, or are required to compensate for poorly planned design that does not respond to the local environment. They favor an architecture that portrays a creative, site specific design that is “grounded” in the local context. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Critics and practitioners of architecture often convey a contradictory message in a quest to comprehend the essence of iconic architecture. The notions of many recent international projects strive to be iconic, but few actually become truly successful from the point of view of the ultimate critics, the people who use them. We propose the need to solidly reestablish the qualities of what defines iconic architecture. The first step of our process began with the interrogation into the nature of iconic architecture and its role today. We asked ourselves, what is needed to create an architectural icon for a city, a task that is both complex and delicate.
The massing of the project begins as a simple, monumental white stone object positioned to mark the entrance of Keelung Harbor like a beacon. The object is broken into slices, revealing a highly contrasting inner material of glass. Each fragment is rotated and pulled apart to obtain the best views of the landscape while allowing sunlight to enter. A single element is displaced to the end of the site, creating a central open space, framing the views of the mountains at the scale of the harbor, and balancing the overall composition.
In separating the program masses, the profile of each tower speaks to the other in composition, establishing a synergy between the two towers that could not exist in the case of a single element. Formally, the vertical elements of the towers define the edges of the view of the landscape, while the plinth of the terminal elevates the horizon line. This building-scale optical device deeply frames the views of the landscape, elevating the presence of the mountains and the sea.
The massing and proportion of the towers are geometrically calm to deliberately contrast rather than duplicate the organic forms of the adjacent mountains and local complex urban fabric. The image of the highly refined, rectilinear white boxes layered against the mountains, suggest a monumental presence on the horizon of the harbor. In using highly contrasting design elements, the project achieves the maximum architectural impact while employing simple massing strategies, a minimum number of materials, and allows the use of economical structural systems. Parallel to the development of the architectural concept, the overall approach strives utilize a form that respects the construction budget, the extremely tight construction time-line, and the challenging phasing strategy.
Pedestrian paths traverse the elevated topography as wooden boardwalks guide visitors around the site recalling the characteristics of a classic wooden pier. They two exterior pedestrian paths also define and connect two types of parks, one active and one passive. The terminal forms a large civic space that re-introduces water to the site in forms that are accessible to the people. Water fountains for children to play in and pools of water to stand in, create an interactive experience for visitors. Conversely, the urban park proposed adjacent to the terminal takes a more traditional approach with a natural and ‘’romantic’’ aesthetic inspired by Claude Monet paintings. Both parks are fully accessible to the public and offer notably different experiences that strengthen one another in their presence.
Materials play an important role in the project. Along with the memory and human associations attached to particular materials, the physical properties and their behavior in the environment of Keelung Harbor were carefully considered. Large modules of stone, coursed in a traditional manner, were selected to contrast with the aesthetic of the monolithic surfaces of the seamless glass.
The checker pattern of the stone façades dictate the location and quantity of fenestration allowing a functional amount of natural light for the office program while framing views of the landscape. Conversely, the pure glass façades open to panoramic unobstructed views of the water of the civic space and harbor. The shimmering glass facades of the project draw their inspiration from the presence of water on, and around the site. The composition of the façades with the reflecting pools raises the visual presence water to the urban scale. Bronze tinted stainless steel fins fixed to the vertical curtain wall components are distributed across the façade in a pattern that captures and reinterprets the image of rippling water.
The extensive use of water in the overall composition reflects the need to return access to water back to the people of Keelung Harbor. Large exterior reflecting pools on the roof of the terminal capture and dramatize the reflected images of the towers. Spray fountains elevate the experience of water from purely visual to tactile, while moderating temperature of the micro-climate of the site and the public gathering spaces. The sound of water falling will also contribute to the park-like atmosphere of the civic space while masking traffic and cargo port noise. While playful, this concept will provide a fully immersive and memorable experience of water, engaging all the human senses for the ferry terminal passengers, people who work at the complex, and the local community.