China’s Most Amazing Spiral Staircase Observatory

The Asian giant inaugurates a new avant-garde building, a viewpoint accessed by an immense double-turn spiral staircase.

The Asian giant inaugurates a new avant-garde building, a viewpoint accessed by an immense double-turn spiral staircase.

Much has improved the materials with which we build our buildings. A lot. Not even the concrete of our structures is the same that William Wilkinson used in 1854 to register his patent for iron-reinforced concrete floors; nor do the panes of today resemble those used in seventeenth-century windows, even though they existed before the Roman Empire. Therefore, when looking at the wonderful avant-garde buildings, it is good to think that architecture depends, to a large extent, on the means we have and the era in which we live.

Nanchang City Observatory Tower is a real gem modern architectural

Jiangxi Spiral Staircase Observatory Tower

The last time we enjoyed modern Chinese architecture was at the beginning of the year, when we visited Chongqing’s horizontal skyscraper. Today we return to the Asian giant to discover another jewel of architecture, a smaller one, but one that could perfectly rival in importance, it is already known that size does not always matter.

This new jewel is found in the capital of Jiangxi, Nanchang, and it is an observatory tower, like the horizontal one, but ten times smaller, since it only reaches 35 meters.

The observatory tower is only 35 meters high

The highlight, the spiral staircase

And what could be so important in a 35-meter tower in the country in the world that builds the most skyscrapers? Well, neither more nor less than a ladder. A simple and spectacular double-turn spiral staircase that surrounds the building until its coronation. An ancient and, at the same time, modern way of bridging the distance from ground zero to the observation point, from which to contemplate the city of Nanchang, its extensive wetlands, and the shadow of an ancient and revered construction: the Wanshou pagoda.

But let’s go to the beginning, when the company China Vanke Co., Ltd., saw the need to incorporate a place of leisure and social recreation into its urban development in the city. And it is that 70,000 square meters of urban area well deserve a break, especially when it is located a few steps from an extensive and protected park, the Elephant Lake Wetland Park.

The highlight of the building is the double-turn spiral staircase that shapes it

A quick construction that cost 12.36 million euros

To configure a quality space, they relied on a company of great international solvency, which at the same time had the freshness to implement a model in accordance with current sustainability standards. This is Nordic – Office of Architecture, which was in charge of the urban layout of the area, and the design and development of the complex called Nanchang Waves.

The architecture studio Nordic – Office of Architecture was commissioned to build the tower

One of the singularities of this architectural incursion has been its speed, since in just over a year it went from a sketch on paper to the inauguration of the building last January. In this way, an investment of more than 12.36 million euros was consolidated in a construction of 5,844.80 square meters. That is, about 2,114 euros per square meter. A spectacularly low sum for development.

The construction cost 12.36 million and lasted only one year

Cafes, galleries, shops and the star: the observatory

Nordic Office, with the Norwegian architect Thomas Lindgård Fagernes as the main person in the project, explains that the complex is located on a floating dock, and that it consists of a ground floor distributed longitudinally, in a sinuous way, imitating the nature that surrounds it. In addition, it houses cafes, galleries, retail, gardens, agricultural areas for neighborhood schools, an amphitheater and space for events. A whole development that culminates in the observation tower, a white monolith that supports a glass UFO to enjoy 360 panoramic degrees.

At the top of the building there is a room in the shape of a UFO and with glass walls, to enjoy a 360-degree view

The performance symbolizes three natural elements. The water, which surrounds the plot and circulates through the sinuous curves built; land, commercial facilities; and the sky, the tower. However, the architects put it differently: «Each node in the landscape contains functions for people of different ages and provides interesting and memorable spatial experiences.» In my language, it is made for everyone, regardless of age.

The construction is based on three natural elements: water, earth and fire

A double-turn spiral staircase that culminates in the observatory

Of course, the contemporary landmark for the new part of the city, is the observation tower, which creates a new and old experience: enjoying the views as you climb the staircase, a double-turn spiral staircase that allows the placement of observation points on each landing.

Upon reaching the top, a circular room gives you the possibility to see the wetlands of the region through large windows. Crystals that are attached to those that are distributed as a railing throughout the staircase, and that allow the visibility of the complex on its commercial facades.

The tower has inside the observatory, cafes, auditoriums, shops, galleries or gardens

A very well executed structure that allows to locate incredible windows

The Rambøll company, which contributed as a structural consultant, tells us that the main complexity of the construction required a close collaboration between architects, developers and engineers. They have on their website that the double helix staircase is 7 meters wide, and through it you reach the observation platform of 675 square meters of built area. But that’s not all, they also teach us infographics of structural design.

The Rambøll company, which participated in the construction, has shared the tower plans

From these infographics we deduce that the tower is made up of a circular spinal column, executed with reinforced concrete, whose diameter is 6.5 meters, and whose thickness reaches 50 centimeters. Trusses of different dimensions that make up the support of the stairs are embedded in this column and, at the end of the route, two circular steel structures, joined by an interior vertical truss, serve as floor and roof. A shape that defines the «donut» that the platform becomes, and that allows the transmission of forces, without having to load on the façade, in order to locate the fantastic circular windows.

The tower is covered with reinforced concrete panels called GRC

Traditional materials and modern constructions

Finally, the tower is covered with reinforced concrete panels, what we have called GRC on other occasions. These panels maximize the durability of the concrete, also providing a warm touch and an unbeatable appearance.

In the end, we see that, with the materials of past centuries, an observation platform has been created in China according to the era we live in, modern and didactic, which teaches what the common spaces of the future can be like. Of course, the best thing is to see how the LED strips, which have been distributed throughout the tower and the parks, give warmth to the complex at night.

*Images courtesy of Schran.

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