The China Diamond Exchange Center is a 535,500 square foot office complex designed by Goettsch Partners of Chicago, Illinois. Located within Shanghai’s sea of massive and often overstated high-rises, this modest-by-comparison structure is brilliantly detailed, appropriately scaled, and aesthetically beautiful. The complex was completed in 2009 with the help of associate architects Zhong-fu Architects. The Diamond Exchange Center is sited within Shanghai’s Pudong district, an international financial and commercial hub and houses both the Exchange and additional relative tenants.
In addition to office space on the upper levels, the building includes retail on the ground floor and a second floor that features the elevator lobby, exhibition space and a restaurant. According to the architect description, the building was conceived as two rectangular office slabs joined by a skylit atrium. One of the two office slabs is dedicated to the members of the China Diamond Exchange, while the other tower houses the remainder of the complex’s tenants. The separation of tenants allows for secure transport for Diamond Exchange members within their own tower, thereby eliminating any potential security breaches for the high-profile office functions. While distinct with regards to program, both towers are clad with exterior aluminum and contrast the transparency of the atrium.
The atrium is the undeniable focal point of the building, featuring a 66×230 foot cable-supported curtain wall. The immense scale of the atrium is an impressive entrance to visitors and employees and provide access to the elevators that serve as the complex’s primary vertical circulation arteries. Not only is the atrium an impressive architectural statement, it is also integral to the daylighting scheme of the complex and brings natural light to the relatively narrow 20m wide floor plate of its abutting towers. The primary tenants’ core business inspired the design, with diamond-shaped elements featured throughout the scheme — these elements includes the atrium’s glass skylight, the geometry of the entry canopy, and the main lobby floor pattern.
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Story by Charles Moxham
Photography by 1st-image
Even in a substantial Grade A office tower, the potential reallocation of spaces can be a major design consideration. Together with clean, contemporary architecture, generous floor plates, and ergonomic pedestrian flows, there should be the option to repurpose the spaces as business needs evolve.
The China Diamond Exchange Center, designed by Goettsch Partners and commissioned by Shanghai Lujiazui Development Co, stands tall on Century Avenue – the main boulevard in Shanghai’s Pudong district and the city’s financial and commercial hub.
The 15-storey, nearly 50,000m2 building provides space for the China Diamond Exchange, which currently occupies one side of the building, as well as other related tenancies. In addition to office space on the upper levels, the building includes ground-floor retail facilities, with the elevator lobby, exhibition space and a restaurant on the floor above.
Partner at Goettsch, James Zheng says the building was conceived as two large rectangular structures connected by a central glass atrium, which looks like a giant sparkling diamond sandwiched between great slabs of coal.
“The core business of the major tenants inspired the design in other ways, too,” says Zheng. “Diamond-shaped elements can be seen in the atrium’s glass skylight, the structural geometry of the entry canopy, and the lobby floor.”
Essentially, the architecture of the China Diamond Exchange Center is a tribute to its stock in trade – an aesthetic that also helps it stand out from other, in many cases taller, structures nearby.
A colour palette of black, grey and red dominates the building. The two office blocks are fronted in black, which provides hard-to-read surfaces that disguise the intakes and exhausts of the mechanical systems. All building systems were pushed to the outer areas of the building in the pursuit of large, uncluttered floorplates that are both attractive to tenants and practical in terms of reconfiguring offices as required.
Exposed metal elevator cabs, stainless steel cables and other, more reflective surfaces lend a subtle contrast in grey. In addition, there are several splashes of red within the decor. With many positive connotations in Chinese culture, this colour brings a sense of warmth to the minimalist spaces.
“The translucent glass atrium and open elevator towers are the central focus of the building,” says Zheng. “Besides evoking the strength and sparkle of diamonds, the atrium creates a sense of business transparency. At the front and rear of the building, 20m x 70m net walls supported by cables admit maximum light into the cavernous central space.”
The three elevators, in the middle of the atrium, climb to sky bridges on all levels that lead to both towers. The activity of the elevators is not only visible from the lobby but also from outside, through the gleaming net wall. Similarly, activity on the street can be seen from within the atrium, further animating the ground-level spaces.
The architect and developer had far-sighted plans for this tower and the elevator banks are a clue to the ongoing viability of the building.
“With diamonds being such a valuable commodity, staff working in that tower enter through a screening room and then travel up to their floor on separate, secure elevators away from the public eye,” says Zheng. “So, while the central elevators appear to service both sides, in reality they currently only take people up to the multi-use tower.”
It is envisaged that in the future, the China Diamond Exchange will occupy both sides of the building, and at that time all levels and both towers will be accessed, via security, by the central elevators.
“We could have built separate elevator shafts for both towers, but the long-term view dictated that we build the central, feature elevators that could eventually be utilised by all,” Zheng says.
Topping the towers – and adding to their adaptive use – are upscale penthouse spaces that are likely to evolve into executive offices or exhibition areas.
“Everything about the China Diamond Exchange Center was designed with an eye on the future.”