View of the Himalaya, Tibet, approaching Everest Base Camp, 2010
What is billed as the world’s largest building was recently completed in the south of Chengdu. Out of sheer curiosity, a desire to explore anything described in superlatives, I paid it a visit. It was a steamy afternoon, and as I emerged from the metro station, I spotted the New Century Global Center in the distance. You don’t see the entire building at once; it reveals itself gradually as vast expanses of glass or sections of its prominent roof line.
The New Century Global Center in Chengdu, in Sichuan in western China, is so big that it’s got its own artificial sun. Indeed, at 500 meters (1,640 feet) long, 400 meters (1,310 feet) wide and 100 meters (325 feet) high, it’s massive enough to hold 20 Sydney Opera Houses or three Pentagons, according to local authorities.
A water park with artificial beach is a centerpiece of the complex; it wasn’t open yet when I visited.
On entering the building one is confronted with a vast, multi-level arrangement of balconies and walkways under a huge atrium. Acres of highly-polished imported marble floors stretch in every direction, and escalators lead the eye upward toward the vast canopy of glass ceiling. It’s a huge space that offers many directions to go, but few clues to what actually lies in any single direction. After a while you realize that there’s a shopping mall to the right, a department store to the left, and straight ahead the entrance to the water park eventually is revealed. Upper levels offer an ice rink and a movie multiplex. The very top balcony level offers a vista of the water park (not completed at the time of my visit).
Among the many wonders of the New Century Global Center are offices, conference rooms, a university complex, two five star hotels including rooms with “seaside views,” an IMAX cinema, a “Mediterranean village,” seafood restaurants, a huge screen with artificial sunsets, and a pirate ship, among other attractions. The artificial beach of the water park will feature artificial waves and nautical breezes. The statistics continue: the building is 500 metres long and 400 metres wide, with 1.7 million square metres of floor space.
Still curious as to what exactly “world’s largest building” meant, I found that buildings can be ranked “…by footprint on the ground, usable space (volume) and floor space (area). The term “building” used by this list refers to single structures that are suitable for continuous human occupancy.” New Century Global Center is the largest building only in terms of total floor area. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_buildings_in_the_world
I first wandered down to a lower level, which promised coffee bars and places to sit. There were a handful of gelaterias, at one of which I enjoyed a quite good, rich chocolate ice cream. After perusing the multi-level shopping center, I eventually found myself at the second-level Lavazza coffee bar, the first I’ve seen in Chengdu. I’d had my fill of the center, and made my way home via the center’s own metro station, just across from the front entrance.
Of far more interest to me than the Global Center was a building that will be constructed just across the road from it, British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid’s Chengdu Contemporary Arts Centre, which is to include a theatre, an opera house and a museum. The Arts Centre’s stunning design (below) can also be seen in the video at the end of the post.
Zaha Hadid Architects have unveiled their design for the largest cultural building in China, the Chengdu Contemporary Arts Centre, to be located in Chengdu.