When Wired correspondent Lauren Hilgers arrived to Broad Town, the headquarters of the Broad Sustainability Group in Changsha, China, she soon realized that this was not your typical workplace environment. At Broad Town, employees must be able to run 7.5 miles over the course of 2 days; recite company “policy” - covering everything from how to save energy to how to brush your teeth - at a moment’s notice; and refer to their boss as “my chairman.”
It may sound strict, but the workers at Broad are on a higher mission. The CEO and founder of the company, Zhang Yue, a.k.a the chairman, doesn’t just consider himself the head of a construction company, but of a “structural revolution.”
In a few years, Zhang has turned the world of skyscraper design on its head, pushing the technical and structural capabilities of pre-fabrication to its utmost (perhaps you’ve heard of the 30-story hotel he built in just 15 days). Not only do Broad’s techniques save time and money, they represent a potentially game-changing opportunity for China to maintain its unfathomable rate of growth in a way that’s both safe and sustainable.
But where does innovation enter in this revolution? China, for years an intellectual playground for Western architects, has become increasingly concerned with nurturing its own latent intellectual capital. However, if Broad’s paradigm takes hold (which, pragmatically-speaking, it should), what will that mean for architectural innovation? In a world of pre-fab structures, can architecture exist?