Conceived as a precious crystal, semi-submerged in splendid isolation, reached by boat across the lake followed by a short walk from the shore, the greenhouse blends into the hillside.

Xi'an Greenhouse

TYPE Exhibition, Infrastructure, Public space
STATUS Competition 1. Prize, Built
LOCATION Xi'an, China
YEAR 2009-2011
CLIENT Chan Ba Ecological District

PROJECT ARCHITECT Mehran Gharleghi
DESIGN TEAM Katy Barkan, Nicoletta Gerevini, Evan Greenberg, Tom Lee, Dongyun Liu, Peter Pichler, Benedikt Schleicher, Danai Sage; LAUR Studio, Xiaowei Tong, Ying Wang, Beijing, China

COLLABORATORS Groundlab, ARUP, London, Beijing; John Martin and Associates, Los Angeles

Visitors access the building through a prolonged cut, literally scooped up from the ground, emerging into a light-filled reception space. From here the visitor passes along a tessellated mesh of paths to three different climatic zones with corresponding plant environments. The greenhouse has a horseshoe plan, creating a loop that changes radically in section to accommodate a series of unique planting and spatial conditions. With the interior and exterior ground planes gradually shifting in relation to each other, the visitor experiences a sequence of visual enclosures alternating with long vistas out and across. The horseshoe shape also generates an interior open-air courtyard, making it the natural centre of the building and creating a three-dimensional web of interior and exterior circulation.