Zaha Hadid is not among us anymore, but her genius continues to flourish in the world. Unicorn Island in Chengdu, China is home to the latest work of the studio that continues with the legacy of the famous architect.
Unicorn Island is an urban development that will bring together new research and technology companies: offices, studios, laboratories, companies, staff, and residents. This is an effort of the Chengdu government to provide a better quality of life to its population and to capitalize on the rise of new “unicorn companies,” which are defined as technology companies valued at least in one billion U.S. dollars and China is home to a third of all this type of companies in the world.
The plan is developed on a 67-hectare site within the Tianfu area in Chengdu City. It is formed by several groups of white buildings with similar design in each group, all connected by cycling and pedestrian routes around a large square that will allow the social exchange of a population of more than 70,000 people that is supposed to house.
Curves as the signature
The works of the Hadid Firm are easily identified: they all exhibit sinuous curves and impossible lathing that challenge the execution of the construction companies. The case of Unicorn Island will be no exception. The groups of buildings share the common characteristic of the curves and are interlocked with one another, generating organic communities in each system, giving a sense of continuity and integration from one space to another and providing a spectacular contrast in the aerial views of a region that is full of traditional buildings, thus representing a perfect allegory of how the female presence of Hadid breaks paradigms by integrating urbanism, nature, and community into incredible harmony.
Honoring the past
As it’s the case when it comes to the works of the ZHA studio, where the history and culture of each region are inspiration and motto, Unicorn Island honors the tradition and history of Chengdu. The same recalls the irrigation system of Dujiangyan, a UNESCO world heritage site and a 2,000-year-old reference of flood control in China, through natural water reserves included in the design. Aside from providing a beautiful landscape, they feed small places reserved for urban agriculture in an attempt at sustainability, providing residents with fresh produce grown in the complex.
The construction of Unicorn Island, as its name might suggest, represents the desire to create a sustainable community, focused on ecology and social integration, that moves away from industrialization to give the spotlight to ideas, knowledge and research for a growing and futuristic economy. Certainly, a revolutionary idea in the most industrialized country in the world that could not be in the hands of another firm.
A utopia comes true
The first building of the master plan is now about to complete its construction. It’s a startup conference and exhibition center with the sinuous signature of Hadid. Although very little information is available, thanks to a video broadcasted by the studio, it’s known that the same will have a spectacular ceiling with a glass vortex in the middle that will bring a waterfall of natural light inside the structure.
Unicorn Island will be one of the first futuristic communities that humanity has dreamed of and one that will leave Silicon Valley as a remembered ancestor who became obsolete.