There are many ways of building industrial plants – some are simply functional, some are works of art. Alvaro Siza’s “Building on the Water” for the Shihlien Chemical plant falls into the second category, being the architect’s first work in China.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 soda ash and ammonium chloride production plants. Since water is one of the most important elements in the manufacturing process of glass, the building was to be built entirely on water, a new challenge for Siza that took 4 years to design and build.
The undulating shape, imitating the flowing vibe created by water, rises above water by two stories, being over 300 meters long. With an open, horseshoe shaped planimetry, the building has many bridges that connect the parallel spaces. The twisted volumetry is in symbiosis with the natural environment, creating a perfect harmony between man-build elements and the water. The white exposed concrete used to construct the plant reassures a discrete aesthetic, which naturally blends into the scenery.The outdoor spaces were in part dictated by Chinese law, which demands overall free flow of horizontal and vertical circulation for firefighters.
Discrete architecture, even though used for industrial purposes. Form that follows nature. Respect for local aesthetics and law. Balance between the big scale and the delicate structure. All of these are the elements that Alvaro Siza inserted into his wonderful design, creating a pleasant, organic building.