Gridilicious Nantong Sports Center  Henn StudioB

The grid is here to stay. And it should be that way. And yes, a rhyme but it’s okay. The grid is a concept/construct that permeates and perforates our lives. It is the basis of cartography, graphing, urban planning, early perspective drawings used it, parking lots are large grids… They are everywhere, they do so much. And yet they do/ should pose a dilemma for contemporary designers. The natural world is connected, but in ways more analogous to a spider’s web than a rectilinear grid. How can the grid, whose value as an ordering system cannot be denied, be altered/ reinterpreted to fit a present-day world view?

The Nantong Sports Center, located perhaps unsurprisingly, in Nantong, is a project of such scale that a coherent subdividing of site is necessary for legibility. Why or perhaps how, is it that a grid can order things experientially for visitors? The evidence of a grid is in many cases only visible from the ‘god perspective’. How is it that our brains, on the ground for all intents and purposes, can perceive this and revel in it? Or is  the grid only something for architects’ sanity? I have no answer, only the question.

 Courtesy of Henn StudioB

Designed by HENN Studio B, this sports complex is subdivided in several ways. An examination of the city grid and the east-west ‘green axis’ of the city is used to locate the greater site’s placement in its context. Beyond this, the individual elements of the site, the stadia and smaller venues, are classified by scale. S(mall), M(edium), L(arge) and XL(arge). In an organic fashion, these elements propagate outwards from the main stadium. Heart- Organs- Outer skin- It is unclear in such an arrangement if function is a result of placement or if placement is a result of function. Such ambiguity of ‘timing’, in our minds makes something more natural- not quite haphazard but as if it worked itself out as it grew.

The epicenter of the scheme, the main stadium is a form that seems to slip almost asymptotically from and past the ground upon which it stands. It is constructed of a ribbed structure with a tensioned skin enclosing the form. This is imbued with a nocturnal life by an intelligently designed lighting system which casts differing colours against the skin, reminiscent of skin tones- ever changing with mood and circumstance).

Architects: Henn StudioB
Photographs: Henn StudioB

Courtesy of Henn StudioB

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