Baan’s photographs show the 10 rounded structures that make up the 220,000-square-metre Chaoyang Park Plaza – completed by MAD earlier this year – juxtaposed with a skyline dominated by boxy tower blocks.
The photographer, who is the go-to for many of architecture’s biggest names, was invited to shoot the project in late summer in a humid August sky.. Atmospheric conditions meant the glazed, ridged forms of the towers appeared opaque and looming like a mountain range.
The goal of the firm was to build a transition between the park and the dense urban fabric: “We want to blur the boundary between nature and the artificial, and make it so that both are designed with the other in mind,” said MAD’s founder Ma Yansong.
“Iwan Baan visited Beijing in early August, when the summer heat and humid climate left a heaviness in the air – one that could be seen and felt,” said MAD. Over the course of the days he was scheduled to shoot Chaoyang Park Plaza, he was dealt less than ideal photographic conditions. But, this is real Beijing, and it offered Iwan Baan the opportunity to photograph MAD’s latest project in its truest environment.”
The complex is located on the southern edge of Chaoyang Park, which MAD likens to Manhattan’s Central Park. It forms part of the city’s central business district. The forms are derived from the mountains depicted in traditional Chinese ink landscape paintings. Two skyscrapers – one rising to 120 metres – are set nearest the park, while eight smaller blocks sit on the other side.
Two of the smaller buildings house an Armani-branded apartment complex, featuring staggered balconies that overlook landscaping in the centre of the complex. Pine trees, bamboo shoots and rocks and ponds help to reinforce the connection with the park beyond. The doughnut-shaped headquarters of Chinese broadcaster Phoenix Television can be spotted in the background of the photographs, alongside OMA’s CCTV building.
“We want to blur the boundary between nature and the artificial, and make it so that both are designed with the other in mind,” said MAD’s founder Ma Yansong. “The argument in the modern logic of humans to protect or to destroy nature will no longer exist if we understand and see humans and nature as co-existing. Human behavior and emotion is part of nature, and nature is where that originates and ends.”
Photography by Iwan Baan