The Qingdao Iron and Steel Group’s 40,000 m2 headquarters complex is based in Qingdao, a city on the east coast of China located roughly halfway between Shanghai and Beijing. It sits below the flight path into the local airport, and is part of a huge industrial zone where air quality is low and pollutant particulates high – with all the attendant health concerns and dirt to the buildings’ facades. Added to that, it is hot in summer and very cold in winter.


In this challenging context, our masterplan creates oases of landscaped courtyards between the monumental buildings that comprise showrooms, research facilities, restaurants, sports facilities and offices. Our response included the design of a multi-functional walkway. This elegant triple-height structure expresses the company’s social as well as environmental values. At ground level, the walkway is experienced as a cloister – hence its name – for use by the workers to get to all facilities across the site. It supports an enclosed corridor above used by the CEO and visitors to access all areas without the need to go outside. Its slightly tapered section is deliberately reminiscent of the metal ingots produced at the steelworks during processing.


We deployed a palette of materials that could cope with the impact from the high particulate count in the air, ensuring the structure does not look dirty between cleaning.

Solid & Void

Monumental brick buildings are laid out to create a series of varying courtyards between them to offer moments of respite and calm contemplation. The buildings and courtyards have a solid-and-void relationship, where the spaces between buildings are as important as the buildings themselves, with the connecting element, the Cloister, expressing the social as well as environmental values.

Strong Materials

Brick and glass with a dark coating are used across the building's exteriors as they are able to withstand the dust and pollutants produced by the adjacent plant without looking constantly dirty. Additionally they are materials that express the strength of the company. The facade is designed to be erected extremely quickly - the concrete structure is concealed by the pre-fabricated brick cladding elements.

An Oasis

The development provides an oasis in a heavily industrialised environment, oriented around a series of internal courtyards and connected by a cloister that expresses the social and environmental ambitions of the organisation. The layout of the buildings and courtyards is a direct response to the region's climate, which ranges from hot and humid in the summer months to very cold during winter. This informed the integration of north- and south-facing courtyards where workers can enjoy sunlight and shade at different times of year.

The Visual Link

An elevated walkway wrapped in glass and metal louvres extends along the full length of the third floor. It has a slightly tapered section that recalls the shape of an ingot, the form the metal at the steelworks takes at the earliest stage of its processing. The walkway provides internal circulation for office employees, and a sheltered path for industrial workers.

Power is produced at a local electricity generating plant, operated using waste heat from the steelworks. The glowing glazed path symbolises the transmission of this recovered energy and creates a clear visual link between the structures as well as concealing the services.

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