First Automotive Works (FAW Group), China’s leading vehicle manufacturer of quality passenger cars, commercial trucks, and buses, has approved SmithGroupJJR’s final design plans for a new 422,400-square meter (4.5-million square foot) research and development center in the Changchun Automotive Industry Development Zone in Changchun, Jilin, China.
FAW’s vision was to create a world-class facility reflective of the company’s position as China’s preeminent automotive enterprise. In response, SmithGroupJJR designed a contiguous complex consisting of a seven-story administration building; comprehensive research and development center, including design workshops, testing and evaluation laboratories, styling studio, and design dome; five-story project team office building; and two 2,500-vehicle parking structures. A central distribution center and 1,100-meter-long tunnel system will facilitate delivery of products and services throughout the complex.
Unique architectural elements include a 16,100-square meter atrium, 3.8-hectare green roof, and 2.8-hectare reservoir. A separate three-story, 6,450-square meter academic and training center sited east of the main complex will also house a 400-seat auditorium, breakout and conference rooms.
Located on a 53.6-hectare site, the equivalent of 95 football fields, consolidating functions of the expansive facility under one roof will facilitate efficient circulation and foster collaboration among FAW’s projected employee population, anticipated to number 7,000. The configuration will also address FAW’s concern for employee safety and well-being during the region’s harsh winters.
Chinese Traditions, History Influenced Design ApproachThe facility’s programmatic organization and orientation on the site were influenced in part by traditional Chinese planning principles. This ancient approach aims to balance the flow of energies within a space to assure health and good fortune for its users. From a facility standpoint, designers took care to address the shape of the building’s components, vehicular and pedestrian circulation paths, placement and number of entrances, views and sight lines within and across the complex, and the selection of materials. The principles also extended to the configuration of the surrounding natural environment, encompassing site grading, reservoir location, and placement of trees and plantings.
Building materials selected for the campus echo Chinese history. The use of terracotta in the complex’s façade is a symbolic reference to the entombed Terracotta Army, a collection of more than 8,000 life-size figures of soldiers and horses buried in front of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. Terracotta was also widely used in glazed embellishments adorning the Forbidden City.
Symmetry, balance, strong axis, and elements of the FAW brand also shaped the building’s design. In addition, building massing and site design elements were reviewed and approved by a Chinese planning consultant.
According to Paul Urbanek, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, SmithGroupJJR vice president and project designer, “The concept for this facility is reflective of the design style of today yet maintains the roots of traditional Chinese architecture. Our design creates a noble presence on the site, but also humbles the building within its surrounding environment.”
Atrium Provides Unique Architectural FeatureThe centerpiece of the research complex is a soaring four-story, 16,100-square-meter sky-lit atrium. Structural members were designed to extend a slim profile, minimizing their appearance and creating an open environment infused with daylight. Linking the project team building on the east with the west-sited parking structures, the atrium incorporates water features and landscape elements, which help to balance the volume of the space. Seating options along the concourse provide employees varied amenities for informal interaction or breakout activities.
Expanded Research Capacity, Enhanced Speed to MarketFAW’s strategic objective, to produce 2.3 million domestic vehicles annually, is tied to the completion of this facility. Driven by an aggressive production timeline, the SmithGroupJJR team compressed 18 months of design work into a six month period.
FAW Group President, Xu Jianyi, spoke to the significance of the project. “The R&D Center will enhance FAW’s technological research and development capabilities, accelerate development of home-grown passenger cars, and strengthen our confidence and resolution to participate in the world competition,” said Xu Jianyi.
Site preparation work began in spring of 2012.
FAW Group, Leading China’s Automotive IndustryEstablished in 1953, FAW is China’s oldest and largest state-owned automotive corporation, producing light, medium, and heavy-duty trucks, automobiles, buses, luxury tourist coaches, custom bus chassis, mini-vehicles, engines, transmissions, axles, and components.
FAW Group is comprised of 16 wholly-owned subsidiaries and controlling interest in 15 partially-owned entities. Headquartered in China’s northern city of Changchun, Jilin Province, FAW distributes products in over 70 countries and employs 118,000 people worldwide. Its domestic operations are located in 18 sites throughout China, with annual sales exceeding one million units.
SmithGroupJJR, Trusted Design PartnerSmithGroupJJR was invited to participate in an international design competition in early 2010 and was awarded the role of Designer of Record in June 2010. The firm is serving as design adviser to two Chinese Local Design Institutes (LDI), Beijing-based Aerospace Design Group and Changchun-based MMI Planning & Engineering Institute IX. These partnerships respond to Chinese government standards for foreign design and engineering firms working in China and will ensure that the facility adheres to local building code requirements.
“Our legacy is rich with cutting edge research and development facilities,” describes Russ Sykes, Science & Technology Studio Leader for the firm’s Detroit office, referring to SmithGroupJJR’s role in shaping the Chrysler Technology Center in Auburn Hills, Mich. in the 1990s. The FAW selection team toured the facility as part of the evaluation process for architectural partners.
“Working with FAW keeps us in the forefront of designing advanced research centers,” Sykes adds.
SmithGroupJJR is a leading architecture, engineering and planning firm specializing in the design of health, learning, science & technology, workplace, and urban environments throughout the U.S. and abroad. To advance its China expansion goals, the firm is working with partners throughout China in Beijing, Shanghai, and the Provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan.
SmithGroupJJR’s portfolio of work in Asia includes the 79,990 square meter (861,000 square foot) Shuguang Hospital for Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medical Center in Shanghai, China; and the 24,990 square meter (269,000 square foot) Tae-Joon Park Digital Library at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in Uljin, South Korea. POSTECH also selected the firm in an international design competition to develop a 33-hectare (82-acre) marine sciences campus master plan.
SmithGroupJJR ranked #1 for design quality by Architect magazine’s 2011 annual best firms ranking. The firm is also the recipient of the 2011 Landscape Architecture Firm Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. A leader in sustainable design, SmithGroupJJR has over 350 LEED professionals and 75 LEED certified projects.
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