Dalian International Conference Center

By Kirsten Kiser

Dalian International Conference Center, Coop Himmelb(l)au
Shu He
 

A multi-functional “small city within a city”, with conference and event rooms for 7,000 visitors, the Dalian Conference Center is a landmark for the prosperous harbor city of Dalian.

The World Economic Forum, known for its annual meetings in Davos in Switzerland, also organizes a “summer Davos” in Qujing. As the building’s primary user, the WEF’s requirements for this annual summit determined the spatial concept, the size, and the number of conference rooms and offices.

To make the building’s architectural concept and function visible from the outside, the conference halls penetrate the facade, jutting out and deforming the metallic outer skin.

The perforated aluminum slats of the exterior shell provide a sufficient amount of daylight and give the building its striking sculptural shape. The slats are opened in some of the public areas, offering selective views of the city and the bay of Dalian.

The two major urban axes converge to give rise to the building’s position and basic shape. The Conference Hall and Opera House are located in the center of the building beneath the shell-shaped, partly translucent roof.

Small conference rooms — informal meeting spaces that are crucial to conferences — surround this core like pearls, forming an internal urban structure with squares and streets that invite visitors to linger and chat. The controlled supply of daylight assists the visitors in their spatial orientation and creates an atmospheric diversity on the inside.

Since the opera and conference center lie directly behind one another, the main stage can be used for the classic theater auditorium just as well as for the flexible multi-purpose hall. The opera house is based on a multi-functional design and can be used for events from conferences, music and theater performances all the way to classic opera with very little effort.

Despite its enormous size for 7,000 people, the building is as vibrant as a city. The entry hall has the size of four football fields and reaches up to 45 meters high. Even with this size, the building is not forbidding but rather clearly arranged and inviting.
— Wolf D. Prix, Design Principal and CEO of Coop Himmelb(l)au

The building consists of two elements: the table and the roof. The opera, conference halls, and access zones rest on the table-shaped steel construction, with a three-dimensional deformed facade-roof construction above it. Both elements are steel space frames with depths ranging from five to eight meters.  The whole structure is supported by fourteen vertical cores made of composite steel and concrete. The steel constructions were produced in Chinese shipyards since these were the only facilities where the ten-centimeter steel plates could be welded safely and precisely. Modern technology and construction expertise allowed for span widths of more than 85 meters and projections of more than 40 meters.

Dalian’s location on the sea, along with the strong wind, were essential environmental natural resources harnessed to minimize energy consumption.

The relative thermal energy of the seawater and the natural ventilation of the enormous air volumes in the building are used for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. The atrium beneath the roof is conceived as a solar-heated, naturally ventilated sub-climatic area. A high degree of natural daylight reduces the energy consumption for artificial lighting and has a positive psychological effect. Integrated into the shape of the building, solar panels provide additional energy.

An architectural monograph covering the Dalian International Conference Center from the first concept sketch to the final building was published in May 2015. An essay, written by architect and architectural critic Joseph Giovannini introduces the reader to the history, attitude and design-related processes of Coop Himmelb(l)au, and examines China’s contemporary pivotal point in the firm’s history.