In China, Richard Meier’s OCT Shenzhen Clubhouse has been given pride of place. Located on its own island, in the centre of Happy Harbor Lake, the facility is positioned as the gem of a residential and commercial development that is rising around it.
Designed for Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town, a government enterprise responsible for tourism and cultural projects, it is Meier’s first project in China. It reflects his characteristic clean-lined forms and bleached palette – a direct answer to the client’s request for a design as iconic and unique as the architect’s handsome Jubilee Church in Rome; hence, despite its 11,000 square metres, the project feels measured, and especially so compared with the anything-goes forms by big-name architects that are filling up the mainland.
Yet the composition of the clubhouse is anything but predictable. Connected to the shore by a bridge, the main building’s semicircular form hugs the lake’s shore, with expansive windows that open up the structure to sun and views across the water. It contains a restaurant, private dining suites, games rooms and meeting spaces, for the use of businesspeople and the future residents of planned housing around the lake. (A separate, smaller structure offers spa facilities and a 25‑metre indoor swimming pool.) However, the arrival court on the other side of the building shows off a much different character; there, a cluster of angular, Corian-clad white forms creates a pointed statement. “It’s this kind of shell protecting the back of the building,” says project architect Jerome Engelking. “It’s a strong contrast with the front, which is open and glazed.”
Opened last November, the project followed a blistering construction schedule for such a large facility. “We had a lot of pressure to move ahead very, very fast,” says Engelking. “The reward is that we also ended up with a satisfying result in a short time” – usually not the case with architecture, except in China: “From the earliest sketches to completion, it took just two years.”