Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid complex offers an alternative model of residential development—one that applies striking, Modern architecture to the age-old pattern of housing mixed with shopping, dining, education, and entertainment. Holl and his Beijing-based partner Li Hu made a concerted effort to open the 2.37-million-square-foot development to the surrounding area, welcoming nonresidents to its grassy perimeter and landscaped central plaza. And throughout the project, the architects employed an impressive set of sustainable design strategies, pointing this heavily polluted city in a new direction.
Built by the Modern Green Development Company—a Beijing-based developer that has worked with foreign architects such as the Austrian firm Baumschlager Eberle—Linked Hybrid comprises eight apartment towers ranging from 14 to 21 stories that are connected near their tops by one- and two-story bridges. Rather than serve merely as a circulation element, this so-called “sky loop” provides programmed space for art galleries, shops, cafés, and even a fitness club with a swimming pool. (People began moving into the complex in early 2009, but the developer has yet to find an operator for the bridge spaces. In the meantime, the company has held events, parties, and exhibitions in them.) More shopping and dining areas occupy a loop at the base of the towers, while a preschool and a kindergarten nestle in grass-covered structures tucked along the perimeter of the site. With roughly 650 apartments, the project “has enough density to keep both loops active,” says Holl, refuting any notion that Linked Hybrid might repeat the errors of Minneapolis’s skybridge system, which strangled street life. “We created a porous place that invites people inside,” explains the architect. “This project offers a new urban model for Beijing,” states Li Hu.