OMA Wins Skyscraper Competition in China

Essence Financial Building © OMA

OMA has won the design competition for the Essence Financial Building in Shenzhen, . Led by OMA Partners David Gianotten and , the design beat out four other entries by international and Chinese practices.

The skyscraper will be OMA’s second in Shenzhen (the first being the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, which will be completed in April this year). By challenging many typical office tower conventions (such as a central core plan and curtain wall systems), OMA hopes their buildings will help lead the way for a “new generation” of office towers in the city.

As David Gianotten commented in the Press Release: ”OMA is very excited about its continuous and deepening participation in Shenzhen’s development, especially as the city makes its latest evolution: from a manufacturing city into a services hub. This next generation of urbanism calls for a new generation of office towers of which the Essence Financial Building could be one.”

More on the Essence Financial Building, after the break… 

Essence Financial Building Skydeck View © OMA

From OMA’s Press Release: The Essence Financial Building shifts its core to the edge of the floor plate, resulting in large unobstructed plans that allow a variety of office configurations – and therefore working styles – that meet the demands of the contemporaryservices industry. Direct and open additional connections between floors can be created to cater for visual and physical contact between departments. The building rationalizes programs into unique volumes, which are then maneuvered to create the distinct form of the building, as well as a viewing platform overlooking the Shenzhen Golf Club, and shaded outdoor recreational spaces for staff.

Essence Financial Building © OMA

The facade of the building is an architectural translation of the sun and solar gain diagrams, as well as to the views from each side of the tower. Each face thus takes on a unique pattern. The East and West facades are less penetrable, in response to the low-hitting sun, while the South facade has gradated openingsL the size of the windows increases down the builidng in proportion to the decrease of solar penetration. The North facade opens toward Fuhua First Road.

The project was developed together with SADI, YRG, SWA, Inhabit and AECOM.

Story via OMAArchitizer  

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "OMA Wins Skyscraper Competition in China" 12 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Is this “the new generation” of office towers in the city? I’m pretty skeptical. I mean, not even a shape is interesting..what is happening to this office? Where are the radical and unconventional ideas that lead Oma to top of architecture? I don’t know if the program of the competition has been weird or what, but the result seems coming from another planet..a boring one..not surely from Oma..

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        all they did was

        1) not use a curtain wall
        2) push the core to the edge of the building

        that’s not ‘genius’. this building is mediocre because it is neither beautiful nor innovative.

    • Thumb up Thumb down -5

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      On the contrary- this proposal seems to be totally in keeping with oma’s theoretical views expressed in the generic city essay. Blankness as an idea within a city is interesting to me.
      Small excerpt:
      Is the contemporary city like the contemporary airport – “all the same”? Is it possible to theorize this convergence? And if so, to what ultimate configuration is it aspiring? Convergence is possible only at the price of shedding identity. That is usually seen as a loss. But at the scale at which it occurs, it must mean something. What are the disadvantages of identity, and conversely, what are the advantages of blankness? What if this seemingly accidental – and usually regretted – homogenization were an intentional process, a conscious movement away from difference towards similarity? What if we are witnessing a global liberation movement: “down with character!” That is left after identity is stripped? The Generic?

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +29

    Funny how people expect proposals from OMA to always be innovative.Sometimes, good architecture doesnt always need to be innovative.Sometimes an appropriate response is something simple,but works very well.We are yet to see the floor plans and stuff, and people are already judging the project as boring and not innovative by looking at 3 exterior images.We don’t know the competition requirements.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +18

    OMA is trying to eliminate the over saturation of ‘iconic’ buildings that are simply based on creating grandiose and highly expensive forms like those created by brand name starchitects such as Gehry, Zaha, and Libeskind. This building appears to be pragmatic, contextual, and is actually architecture in all aspects. This is also a realizable project, and as more information than simple ‘money-shots’ are released, I bet this building will prove to be a fantastic work of architecture.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +9

      How does CCTV fit into your theory?

      • Thumb up Thumb down +2

        CCTV definitely falls into the category of icon, which OMA has acknowledged. I think that cities need a very wide and dynamic range of architecture in order to create a dynamic urban environment. However, I think it is more important for architects to move away from the process of simply creating ‘rococo modernism’ (as Eisenman referred to it), and create structures that truly serve the populations that deal with and/or occupy it. Icons are important, but 95% percent of architecture should strive to be something better than dog and pony show formalism.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +2

      ‘grandiose and highly expensive forms’ like those create by Koolhaas for CCTV in Beijing, Seattle Public Library, etc. I’m happy to see a sensible building from them at last.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Also, presumably a ‘program driven’ project in a rapid economy, I’m sure budgetary considerations are at play. I suspect the finished product will pop up close as opposed to the dramatic iconic renderings we have all come to expect. Besides, if you develop a usable approach to design at this scale, it’s probably better (for you) to build 4 or 5 of these instead of just one.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Zzzz…It appears like OMA took Norman Foster’s scheme from 425 Park Place in NY and covered it with a concrete skin on the outside. Pushing the core to the edge is not something revolutionary, SOM did it in Chicago, and Foster did it for 425. It is a great solution for an office space but it is not unconventional. It also sucks for the users that will get the tiny little openings due to that literal translation of climate diagram to building envelope.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    totally agree scott warner.I love that approach,especially in china where there is an over saturation of buildings with grandiose formal gestures.I dont know why people always want to be ‘blown away’ by breath taking architecture…’the architecture of form’.This approach in itself by OMA is radical and unconventional,but in a pragmatic and rational way

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to this building. It does look very ‘generic’. I’d would agree that this approach, to me, is an architectural approach that steers clear of heavy handed formalism. I looks good but I’d like to see more. Architecture that attempts to externalize itself is a failure. This is where OMA’s Park Ave bid fell short.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    THE GAP is a very simple gesture with a strong message, and sometimes we have to remember that “less is more.”

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    it is innovative in it’s sabtle simplicity. the location of the “cut” is very specific(see last image). and facade in an interesting take on Steven Hall’s MIT dorms

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    To be honest…. OMA never was innovative on ‘PHYSICAL’ side of building design.
    Real innovators are like Jean prouvé, Piano, Foster…etc.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Zzz…Looks like OMA learnt from a lost competition at 425 park place. Putting the core on the side was Fosters strategy and it’s not unconventional, SOM did it Chicago. As for the exterior structural skin, it would be awful to be the guy with the tiny window. If you are going to be generic do it all the way.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Do you realize that the park ave competition was redevelopment? The core was existing so all competitors, including OMA, had the core on the side.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    in many countries it is not possible to design a building such as this due to building controls. For example, fire regulations (ie. escape stairs loctaed at certain distances around the floor plate) necessitate a central core or multiple side cores – although it is possible that they have a lot of internal fire corridors (reducing the lettable floor area) to achieve this?

    i thought the new generation of office towers were environmentally benign? carbon neutral, biomimetic, climate and culturally appropriate…
    how much steel and concrete will be required to achieve this new type of tower? perhaps new does not equate with improved…

  11. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Impressive design. No spectacle, such as Hadid, etc. This design is a wonderful tribute to Mies – “less is more”, and his teacher and mentor Oswald Mathias Ungers (OMU => OMA)!!
    Thank you very much, Rem!!

  12. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    This is how OMA contributes to environment: Mr. Koolhaas recycles his own ideas

    hint: they already did this in the Middle East

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    the idea for this proposal is the open office layout arrangement. That is what the client’s need, and these bankers got it. The scheme is straight to the program. the massing is clear and simple.

    however, there is fire distance 30m requirement, do they meet this ordinance?

    I like this design, being in shenzhen, I can’t wait to see it get being constructued soon.

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    the idea is the open office layout. however how do they solve the fire exit distance(30m) from the farthest point in the floor plate to the closest exit? They properly have internal stairs?

    other than this, the scheme is clear and simple. I am goingt to use this similar approach for my upcoming office tower competition.

    Being working in SZ, I can’t wait to see this tower get being constructed soon.

  15. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    “less penetration”,“decrease of solar penetration”,is that the translation of sun and solar gain diagram?

  16. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Moving the core to the facade is not a good option. Blocking the whole facade with the core means the workplaces in the middle of the tower will have a poor ventilation, low natural lighting and no good views. But this is in China, who cares about employees? Just make it profitable!

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