Located in the New Salt Industrial Park of Huai’An City, Jiangsu Province, Shihlien Chemical Industrial Jiangsu Co. is one of the world’s largest combined soda ash and ammonium chloride production plants. The plant covers an area of two square kilometers and employs the world’s most advanced manufacturing processes and technologies.
The concept was to create a building that would blend seamlessly with the most important element in the manufacturing process of glass, water, at the same time establishing an architectural profile for the Shihlien plant.
To realize this visionary plan, he invited internationally renowned architect Álvaro Siza to head the design team. The Building on the Water took four years to design and construct. Meticulously built in white exposed concrete, the building’s pristine curvilinear form comprises two levels above water.
As if evoking a life-like dragon, elegantly poised over water, the contours of this building gently undulates. Contorting itself, the form escapes from convention, an autonomous entity contrasting with the orthogonal shapes of the factory complex. Crisscrossing the curving geometries, bridges interconnect spaces, levels and volumes. The design takes full advantage of its poetic setting and natural light.
The elegant building conveys a quiet beauty achieved when the concrete and substantial comes in contact with the fluid and ethereal, whether viewed from land, water or air. In constant interplay with the environment – whether it is the changing hues and reflections of the water, or varying tones of light and shadow, the building manifests a multitude of changing complexions.
Building ingeniously blends with the waterscape and plant grounds, this first project in China by Álvaro Siza, can be an inspiration for future industrial plant designs in the country and is truly significant for that reason.