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 Eva Castro, Ulla Hell, Holger Kehne, Chuan Wang, 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.