Gang bei ! – The human element


A meal, a dinner in a Chinese restaurant in China. We don’t even remember what we ate. What we haven’t forgotten is the number of times a toast is proposed during a Chinese meal to show appreciation. The key word is gang bei, which is none other than the equivalent to cheers, á votre santé or prost! To your health. As you can imagine, after partaking in such a sociable custom as gang bei quite a few times, you become far more talkative and the sense of perceived wit and relevance reaches new heights. This is when the talk about the project for two towers and adjoining buildings on the banks of the Qiantang in Hangzhou comes to its orchestral climax. Speakers utter a stream of frenzied sentences which never seem to reach a conclusion. These sentences are punctuated by an exact choreography of hands accompanied by a gesticulating of arms, appearing to wave to someone in the distance. But nothing could be further from the truth, because the focus of attention and comments is several drawings and models of the aforementioned towers scaled down from a height of 220 m. These fit quite easily on the table surrounded by clear evidence of a sumptuous meal. Beaming from ear to ear, one of the speakers is saying over and over again how much he likes the shape of the towers and their elusive way of relating to one another. His words are accompanied by an incessant twisting of hands, which reminds one of the diners of a very well-known dance. Suddenly, the word FLAMENCO escapes from his lips. That’s it. It’s just like flamenco. Everything else flows out naturally and thus the buildings become the FLAMENCO TOWERS.
Alongside the technical development and assessment of requirements, the human element or personal relationships turned out to be fundamental to christening the project in such a way that the name itself, FLAMENCO TOWERS, provided new drive and a fresh, energising point of reference for the project. From then on, there was a clear, powerful image which inspired both those who saw the project for the first time and those who were developing it.
The chosen site is the Yangtze River Delta, which is one of the largest urban areas in the world with a population of over 80 million. The region includes two provinces with two of the highest GNPs in the country, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, as well as the municipality of Shanghai, which is the main city in the region. Other important cities are Nanjing and Hangzhou, followed by the smaller Ningbo.
All together, the urban area is made up of 14 municipalities with a high degree of autonomy. Shanghai’s dominance is undisputed, but the other municipalities are continuously competing against each other to attract capital so they can expand. The FLAMENCO TOWERS are in Hangzhou.
Hangzhou lies 180 kilometres southwest of Shanghai and can be reached by road, motorway, or high-speed train. A planned magnetic levitated railway will reduce the journey time between the two cities to 28 minutes and connect Hangzhou to Pudong International Airport.
Being so close to each other has meant Shanghai and Hangzhou have a long tradition of complementing one another – the former as an ideal of urban management and the latter as an example of how to conserve the countryside, culture and history.
In this respect, Hangzhou has committed itself to a brand of urban growth which recognises the value of the countryside and history which have characterised it, particularly as regards its famed West Lake. In order to reduce congestion in the present city centre around the lake, new land has been sought out along the banks of the River Qiantang. The official slogan is Urban development to the east, tourist development to the west. Effort is thus being made to preserve the beauty which attracts over 12 million visitors every year by focussing development along the river in the districts of Binjiang and Xiaoshan. Growth in Binjiang, where the airport is located, is turning the district into a new urban centre, a bridge between Xiaoshan and the city which grew around the West Lake. This is the precise strategic position of FLAMENCO TOWERS.
FLAMENCO TOWERS are planned to be built along the riverside in Binjiang, with their 55 storeys reaching 220 m in height and the 4 storeys underground adding a further 12 m. The project will be carried out in two phases, which together will account for a built-up area of 125,000 m2. One of the initial towers is being developed into a hotel and spa covering 35,000 m2 and the other one will provide a mixture of residential apartments and offices covering 25,000 m2. The plaza which joins the two together will hold a shopping area of over 15,000 m2. The second phase will include four additional residential towers of varying heights covering an area over 48,000 m2, which will form a complex around the towers. The whole complex will be interconnected via the parking facilities and the shopping area.
The final project is not completely etched in stone yet, however. This is where balloons come into the story along with a return to the human element in the shape of the Mayor of Hangzhou. Anxious to preserve its realm, the city’s government is thinking of preventing high buildings from being observed from the lake.  To do so, they have come up with the idea of raising balloons to the same height as the planned towers in the area where they are to be built. If a balloon is seen while a city official is rowing quite peacefully on the lake, then the building has to be a few storeys lower. If nothing is seen, the building can go ahead as planned. We are thus hoping for the city’s characteristic fog to appear, which usually reduces visibility to less than 200 m, so that any of the city’s fathers who happens to be rowing on the lake won’t see the balloon which symbolises FLAMENCO TOWERS. Let’s hope it has the flamenco spirit.