Linked Hybrid / Steven Holl Architects

© Iwan Baan

Architect: Steven Holl Architects
Location: Beijing,
Program: 750 apartments, public green space, commercial zones, hotel, cinemateque, kindergarten, Montessori school, underground parking
Client: Modern Green Development Co., Ltd. Beijing
Project Area: 220,000
Project year: 2003-2009
Photographs: Iwan Baan, SHA, Shu He

© Shu He © Shu He © Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan

The 220,000 square meter pedestrian-oriented Linked Hybrid complex, sited adjacent to the site of old city wall of Beijing, aims to counter the current urban developments in China by creating a new twenty-first century porous urban space, inviting and open to the public from every side. Filmic urban public space; around, over and through multifaceted spatial layers, as well as the many passages through the project, make the Linked Hybrid an “open city within a city”. The project promotes interactive relations and encourages encounters in the public spaces that vary from commercial, residential, and educational to recreational. The entire complex is a three-dimensional urban space in which buildings on the ground, under the ground and over the ground are fused together.

programatic floor plan
programatic floor plan
© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

The ground level offers a number of open passages for all people (residents and visitors) to walk through. These passages ensure a micro-urbanisms of small scale. Shops activate the urban space surrounding the large reflecting pond. On the intermediate level of the lower buildings, public roofs gardens offer tranquil green spaces, and at the top of the eight residential towers private roof gardens are connected to the penthouses. All public functions on the ground level, – including a restaurant, hotel, Montessori school, kindergarten, and cinema – have connections with the green spaces surrounding and penetrating the project. The elevator displaces like a “jump cut” to another series of passages on a higher levels. From the 12th to the 18th floor a multi-functional series of skybridges with a swimming pool, a fitness room, a café, a gallery, auditorium and a mini salon connects the eight residential towers and the hotel tower, and offers spectacular views over the unfolding city. Programmatically this loop aspires to be semi-lattice-like rather than simplistically linear. We hope the public sky-loop and the base-loop will constantly generate random relationships. They will function as social condensers resulting in a special experience of city life to both residents and visitors.

geothermal diagram
geothermal diagram
© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

Geo-thermal wells (660 at 100 meters deep) provide Linked Hybrid with cooling in summer and heating in winter, and make it one of the largest green residential projects in the world (aiming at LEED Gold rating).

Cite: "Linked Hybrid / Steven Holl Architects" 09 Sep 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • kang

    The concept with flying communication looks very nice (How the fire protection works I don’t know).
    I think there is no clear reason why the two buildings are not rectangular.
    The height of the window seems to care the culture of China. The quite logical reason for this window I want to know.

  • Fran

    A project that questions cities, streets and housing.
    That flying street is something quit unique that has something to do with the spatial city of Y. Friedman .
    It ends like a chinese disneyland… i wonder where’s space montain?
    That combinaison of thin towers is certainly not a good solution for sustainable cities.
    Half scary, half freeky.
    For me it’s an interesting concept without humanity, a project of our time i guess.

  • nzl

    makes you wonder why we didn’t get rid of streets before…

  • archilocus

    Great concept, but once you said that, that’s a kind of architecture you like or you don’t. I’m interested to see if in the next decades this flying street will work well or not I don’t understand the purpose of the diagrams, it just shows it’s not so far away from the cluttered city…

  • Dan

    amazing project and amazing photos, plans, sections, models! who needs to buy a pricey book when you have archdaily? :-)

  • Klien

    Nice! to bad it’s in a communist country…

    • roy

      A friendly and great country

    • RT

      maybe one day u have to work in the “communist country” just because there are tons of open projects there and American has none. and btw, china is not a communist country anymore, dont be so ignorant

      • quention

        Hi,i am a Chinese and i think what u said is right .However,the leader always call outside communist country.

    • Tray_p

      Good response! What sense does it make to have all this great architecture with the enormous amounts of genocide and repression that exists in communist china. I’m currently working on a housing project in China and can honestly say that there is Tons of repression and lack of freedom there.

      • quention

        Though i am a Chinese,i have to agree with your opinion.
        There are too many people living in China and there is only one goverment administer so many the people.More important,people here are very endurable .They rarely stand against the goverment.But now,something has changed.Because of the price of the house and the Graft and spawned corruption ,ect .I think people have realized they have suffer unequal treatment and life will be better in future.

  • Nicolas

    WOW!… big wow, this is impressive. maybe there was not a strong reason to make all the social amenities fly between the buildings, but its an amazing concept and its perfectly solved. I really love this project, congratulations to steven holl and his crew.

  • rl

    Didn’t we go through the ‘streets in the sky’ concept already in the 60′s? It doesn’t work. Nothing invented yet beats the traditional city street. Also, no projects should be of this size and scale. Too much concept, not enough feeling.

  • arch critic

    the only thing impressive about this project is how many architects this project alone fed.

  • Nathan

    Having visited this project, I find it unconvincing. First, for all the rhetoric concerning the development’s porosity, it is quite closed and insular, and notoriously difficult to access from outside its property line. This ( diagram is very deceiving and would benefit from the inclusion of context. The site is bordered on the south by large highway and open stormwater drain, from which no pedestrians will be arriving (yet this is the side labeled entry). The east-side is bound by existing housing. The west side is blocked off from the city with a new kindergarten through which an access-controlled road leads into the site. The north side is spatially cut-off from the other residences by the new ‘hills’ introduced by the project. Further, the project also doesn’t take into account that Beijing is absolutely massive and completely unwalkable. Bicycles, unfortunately, have gone by the wayside in modern Beijing. The drawings are telling too. How can a project which speaks of porosity and openness cut its context off at the property line?

    (Copy & paste for a better site plan),-97.15369&sspn=37.040659,92.988281&ie=UTF8&ll=39.949095,116.431437&spn=0.002677,0.007719&t=k&z=18

    I also fear that the ‘public’ open space will not be as successful as the architects imagine. While I visited there was still some finishing work going on, so interpret this as you may, but I was asked to leave by security guards. I wonder if the security guards will continue to patrol the public space once it opens. The public realm is bordered by commercial space, yet only the notoriously expensive B&B Italia has moved in. What kind of pedestrian environment will that create? I’m sure it won’t have the same flexibility as the new Beijing Ikea. The ‘designer’ nature of the project has turned the project into an artifact before it even opened, and is attracting high-end designer commercial tenets who like to associate themselves with designer architecture.

    Finally, there are good attempts at creating programmatic draws for non-residents (kindergarten, hotel, commercial, movie theatre… or is the intention that these are only for residents?), but I have doubts about the sky-bridges. Granted the skywalks are to be public, but I wonder just how ‘public’ they’ll be. It’s still located in a private residential project. Any public is ultimately still a visitor.

    Furthermore, apropos tectonics, I cannot really comment on the unrelenting inset windows, but apparently the colour scheme for these windows is inspired from traditional Buddhist architecture. First, this is a very bold move in a country which subverts religion, and secondly, the idea is so abstract that there is no perceptible historical continuity to anything in China.

    Ultimately, too much concept.

    • hOLA

      I just want to add that 2 years ago I went to Steven Holl’s lecture in NY, at the end of presenting this project there was an awkward silence. Point is that many people at that lecture realized there were too many things involved and Steven Holl was contradicting himself. Why would you create and urban plaza at sky level when you can do it at ground level? For what kind of people is this project design for? They weren’t even questioning the tectonic language…Also we’ve seen this building before at MIT ( and the interiors remember me the Fukuoka project he did before. I don’t think recycling ideas is bad, but for the facades was it necessary to repeat the same?

  • Nathan

    The massing of these buildings feels oppressive at the street level, which is going to suffer for activity because of the sky bridges. In traditional starchitect fashion, it appears the composition of the building, not the life on the street, is the most important element of this project.

  • Mathew

    I went there last week… I was asked to leave by a security guard upon entering… he told me the premise is not open to the public, so it’s not “inviting and open to the public from every side.”

  • Mathew

    …and Nathan is correct about the site being closed and insular. The nearest subway stop is a 20-30 minute walk, and as mentioned, the site is bordered by other structures making the entry unnoticeable and dark.

    Though I didn’t go inside the premise, outside was very empty, unusual for a dense city such as Beijing where many people are seen walking and congregating on every corner.

    I don’t want to be negative, but before we architects come up with these experimental concepts, we should understand the context and how real cities work so that our concepts actually do work… otherwise just don’t say anything- that your project will do this or do that- and just create beautiful architecture…

  • Matt in Auck

    I quite like this. Quite reminiscent of his “Patios 11″ project in Tokyo from the early-mid 90s.
    Interesting views thoughh from people who have visited. Its easy to look nice on a website but context is important, and maybe somewhat neglected here by the sounds of things….

  • Nacho

    I dont understand why some people criticize this project so much.
    You should go and visit any city in China and see the awful residential complexes they are building all around. All look the same and have no urban quality.
    This is refreshing architecture. Well done.

    • Mickey Mao

      Should we only be discussing this work of architecture as a comparison to ‘awful residential complexes’ throughout china?


      Living in China and having visited the site, I can say that Nathan has a very compelling critique of the project. Why can’t we critique the project based on the architect’s intentions and ideas?

      The urban quality of Linked Hybrid is currently private and patrolled. Perhaps given some time to become part of the context in Beijing, this project will be able to realize some of the architect’s original ideas.

  • JJ

    love this

  • Squidly

    this is a “thing” to be admired from afar. I dont imagine living there would be unpleasant, but the coldness of living in aluminum boxes might never result in feeling “at home”. the comments from people who have visited is a real indictment.

  • Fino

    All I can say is that this really excites me. Vague, I know.

  • StructureHub Blog

    Turned out better than I expected. Of course, it is (for better, but likely worse) very much a design of its era, and will date accordingly.

  • JR

    Living in China and having visited the site, I can say that Nathan has a very compelling critique of the project. Why can’t we critique the project based on the architect’s intentions and ideas?

    I also live and work in China and if you do likewise then you should realise the bureaucratic difficulty of realising a project of this ambition. I applaud the architects for pursuing their ideas so boldly.

  • richie

    no more than admiration for S.Holl

  • Martin

    Its a great plan but seems a bit to crowded.

  • quinn

    Am I the only one bothered by the elevations?

    Those scar-like slashes across the otherwise pure grids could not possibly be a design decision. Undoubtably they are a poorly-resolved structural consideration, generated by structural engineers and left as a “representation of structural forces,” I’m guessing. I won’t argue that the monotony of the grid should be broken up frequently, but this is poorly done. For a better resolution, I would look at Holl’s Simmons Hall at MIT, a project he no doubt recycled heavily here.

  • Pingback: Linked Hybrid Complex

  • Ralph Kent

    More diagram architecture from Holl. Looking forward to seeing the usage stats on those Skybridges, I’m sure they’ll run to the 10s of people.

  • shengchu

    oh,it`s great and i am chinese,want to make friends with others please email to me

  • d.teil

    all u need is a good client. problem is just: there are just a very few good clients in whole china. the market is dictated by farmers. and i mean it. i have to deal with farmers from time to time by working in china since more than 4 years. they give a shit on a concept. they have just in mind to make money and nothing – really nothing more. not even a bit. and the government: they don’t care about city planning. not a single bit.

    it goes like this:

    here is a piece of land. client is interested to buy this. there will be a gfa and that’s it. client give money under the table. then he is doing what he wants to do. but he has no idea about architecture. why he should? he is still a farmer. he build it as fast as possible. he sell the apartment during that time. most of the time it’s just a copy and paste architecure. sustainable is out. city planning is out. who cares? people buy the apartment. they will not live in. they are waiting. then they are selling it for the double or much more. a lot of apartments just empty. better than stock market. chinese people (most of them, sorry to say!) having no taste. no passion. no passion at all. how long it will takes that they will get at least a taste? the cities in china are not anymore for walking through. neighborhood? forget about.

    about holl’s project: he had here a good client. normally already impossible to reach a normal client here by seeing the floor plans (i like them by the way), just because not every living room and master bedroom is facing to south. but this you must normally provide. NOBODY is under normal circumstances interested in city planning, just the floor plan (i talk here just about residential) is important at first stage. so china is getting everywhere walls (not enough with the great wall), walls of 100 meter height, just because of north south directions. nobody cares. you can not cross a “garden” when you are not living there. you must walk around this area and behind there will be another block with walls so you must again walk around and so on and so on. result: you just not walking anymore.

    architects are normally just a servant. ok, in other countries it goes not completely different, but here: i am a slave. and i try it again and again to give something to the public too. but i failed most of the time. i work on a scheme. i present it to the client with 2,3 or even more other schemes from the same office (chinese companies like to do this way). you can be sure that the farmer will take the most worst one. be sure. same happened all the time by a competetion where the government is involved. beside some important projects you will see: connection will win, not quality.

    result: you should appreciate holl’s design under this circumstances a bit, even it will be not working. it’s a try. better as to see again and again and again the same apartment building in china.

    perhaps not everybody is knowing this:

    after 70 years the goverment getting the land back from the client or the owner. the government will pay out the owner or give them a new apartment in a different area.
    what does this mean for us (as architects)? at least it means for me: in 50 years there will be the first big big wave in china of destroying all the crap they built before.
    beside this you have to understand that in china nobody is thinking too of looking too far in the future. in europe you will probably buying a house or an apartment to give it to your children later and they will give it to their children and so on. but not here.

    • Adhitecture

      Thanks for the tale of a major Chinese’s nature mate..
      I’m sure that is true..
      And even in Indonesia (my country) most of the successful Indo-Chinese investors prefer to build an apartments & mall in order to gain a lot of profits on a land that should preserved for the absorption area, without find the solution how to deal with the environment & ecosystem that they just ruins.

      Of course in this case the government also taking part of this mess.. but the investor place the huge bribes to a corrupt government.

      And.. Yess.. Architects always be a slave for them.. Timing & low budgeting is what they after..

  • sormeh

    that was grate. thanks to show plans sections and thechnical information. i relly like to see it there.

  • lida

    nice!!!! I like it!!!!

  • Nadia

    wow, huge similarity with Simmons Hall, MIT!!!! but MIT happened 15 years ago….. one cannot help but wonder- are all his educational buildings like that???/