The Hengqin Culture & Art Complex Designed by Yunchao Xu/Atelier Apeiron

Yunchao Xu/Atelier Apeiron is nearing completion of the Hengqin Culture & Art Complex, a large-scale project in China's rapidly growing Hengqin Island. The complex, designed to be a community focal point in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, integrates nine independent departments into a single structure. The design addresses challenges such as typhoon-prone weather and the need for natural light. The complex features three arches that serve as gateways to different halls, including a Knowledge Hall, a Performance Hall, and an Exhibition Hall. The design incorporates modular spaces for flexibility and aims to create a communal atmosphere. The complex also includes rooftop gardens and platforms offering diverse views and experiences. Construction is expected to be completed in 2024.


the urban context. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

The beating heart of a newborn city

In 2018, Atelier Apeiron won a competition to design the Hengqin Culture & Art Complex, which is part of a new and vibrant community in one of China's rapidly growing urban centers. The firm's winning proposal focused on integrating nine independent buildings into a single complex, taking into account the unique requirements and contradictions of each department. By adopting a comprehensive strategy that resolves conflicts and energizes the public, Atelier Apeiron aimed to create an innovative and harmonious development.


the three vaulted halls. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

Innovative responses

The Hengqin Culture & Art Complex faced various challenges due to its unique location. The area's susceptibility to typhoons in the summer required careful consideration of materials, leading to the selection of a lightweight and flexible suspended glass curtain wall that provides effective wind resistance. Another challenge was bringing natural light into the large spaces of the complex. Additionally, the complex's foundations posed a stability issue due to the presence of a natural silt layer, particularly as it is located on an island with a sub-tropical climate. To address this, the firm designed a basement with sealed support space and anchor points to ensure the structural integrity and strength of the complex.


key section. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

Gateways of arts and culture

The Hengqin Culture & Art Complex is strategically located between residential towers and a city park, and Atelier Apeiron has devised an architectural strategy to create a dynamic complex capable of accommodating various functions. The design emphasizes large-scale porosity, adapting to the high-density urban context of the surroundings.


three vaulted halls at night. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

The lower level of the complex features three unique arches created using an inverted catenary geometric concept, blending Chinese and Western elements. Each arch serves as an entrance to a distinct hall with its own character and purpose. To bring natural light into the naturally darker spaces, skylights are placed above the arches, connecting them to rooftop gardens. Two diffuse reflectors direct soft sunlight into the rooms. The arched structures, made of wood and bamboo panels, provide transparency between the facility and the urban environment. Visitors can enjoy clear views of the park during the day and experience the soft illuminated atmosphere of the transparent halls at night, which serve as a backdrop for various public events. Modular space units are integrated above the archways, ensuring flexibility for future programs, and small spaces within the arch joints accommodate equipment and building services.


the model 01. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

Arches, a timeless architectural form present in both Eastern and Western cultures, provide strength by converting horizontal shear force into vertical force, enabling the structure to bear a shared load.


ariel view during daytime. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

A diversity of atmospheres

Yunchao Xu/Atelier Apeiron aimed to foster a sense of community within the Hengqin Culture & Art Complex, which houses nine distinct functions. The design features three urban living rooms, with each arch leading to a unique space: the Knowledge Hall, the Performance Hall, and the Exhibition Hall. The Knowledge Hall takes inspiration from the Oodi library in Finland and goes beyond traditional library services by creating a vertical village of crystal book blocks, becoming a hub for urban public activity.


the library 01. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

The adjacent Performance Hall serves as a cultural performing arts center, equipped with an open stage and black box theater for various productions.


the performance center 01. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

The Exhibition Hall embraces a porous space with strategically placed openings, allowing natural light to scatter throughout and making it an ideal venue for art and science exhibitions.


the art hall 01. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

These three halls provide visitors with diverse experiences within a single complex. The modular design ensures that each of the nine pavilions has its own distinct spaces, while the overall vision is to create a vibrant, three-dimensional vertical city that welcomes millions of tourists and connects seamlessly with the surrounding environment.


the amphitheater. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

Integrated landscape and vistas

The design of the Hengqin Culture & Art Complex draws inspiration from nature, incorporating elements such as terraces, caves, and cliffs. The complex features stacked rooftop platforms that offer breathtaking views and serene environments, with green balconies resembling park settings for community events. Extensive studies were conducted to ensure optimal sightlines from each platform, and specific functions are assigned to different levels.


the model 02. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu


the model 03. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

The base platform includes a semicircular stage and circular auditorium for hosting large-scale events. At a height of 24 meters, a children's theme park provides play facilities, restaurants, museums, and family cafes. Another platform at 30 meters offers a shared garden space, along with staff canteens and cafeterias. Rising to 36 meters, a rain garden platform serves as an ecological zone, incorporating green technologies and low carbon footprint practices. Visitors can ascend a spiral staircase to a bamboo garden, providing a peaceful setting for enjoying moments of tranquility and a cup of tea near the Sky Bookstore.


the view from the plaza
Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

A glittering landmark in a new skyline

The Hengqin Culture & Art Complex is becoming a prominent landmark, stretching from a hill in the north to a river in the south. With construction set to be completed in 2024, the project has allowed the firm to evolve through a multidisciplinary design process. Collaborating with experts in various fields, including material science, botany, climate, and acoustics, the firm has gained a comprehensive understanding of designing large-scale cultural complexes. This project marks a significant milestone for Atelier Apeiron, inspiring them to explore innovative architecture and challenge traditional design boundaries in the future.


ariel view at night. Photo credit: Yunchao Xu

About Yunchao Xu/Atelier Apeiron

Based in Shenzhen, China, Yunchao Xu/Atelier Apeiron is a firm comprised of creative international architects and designers. The word “Apeiron”, derived from ancient Greek, encapsulates the firm’s design philosophy marked by continuous thinking, rethinking, research, and practical applications of architecture. Leveraging the Shenzhen Architectural Design Institute (SZAD) platform, Yunchao Xu/Atelier Apeiron provides professional services in the fields of architectural design, urban, interior, product, and graphic design.

The firm prides itself in crossing boundaries, disciplines, and topologies in pursuit of adventurous project outcomes that reconnect humanity with its natural surroundings. Time and space are thoughtfully applied to revelations of inner beauty, contributing to a more poetic built environment.

From urban development to rural revitalization, the innovative work of Yunchao Xu/Atelier Apeiron has been recognized with numerous awards, including prizes presented by the WAN Awards 2022 (UK), Deezen Awards 2022 (UK), World Architecture Festival Award 2022/2021 (UK), Architizer A+ awards 2019/2020/2021/2022 (USA), and many more.