International Convention and Exhibition Center in Cloud Town, Hangzhou, Zhejiang

Open for unconventional use

published in sb 2/2020

The convention center is designed as a “3D park” to return all the space occupied by the building to the city, and “inserts” various facilities like Lego toys to encourage citizens to congregate and meet each other. Indoor exhibition halls can be quickly converted into “sports warehouses”. The aim of the designers of approach design Studio is to get more public value from the urban resources of large public buildings.

In the process of designing the first stage of Cloud Town Exhibition Center in 2015, the designers came up with an atypical exhibition center design, abandoning specific models and so-called sense of ceremony. The alternative is a refreshingly concise exterior, blurred boundaries and a fully open space accessible to all.

Two years later, in 2017, due to the increased scale of the Computing Conference, a three-times larger, second-stage Cloud Town exhibition center was to be constructed opposite to the first-stage structure. While everyone expected an even larger and iconic building, it was designed as a compact “3D-Park”. There was no modelling to begin with. It didn’t even strike people as a building. The plan caused instant controversy and opposition.

(Figure 14) (Rooftop football field and track).jpg

Mao Liaoping


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(Figure 1) (firstsecond-stage overall aerial view from northeast).jpg

Mao Liaoping


In general, an exhibition center requires a huge amount of urban resources. Even the busiest exhibition centers merely have a usage rate of 40 percent, for some the rate is below 10 percent. Traditional exhibition centers can hardly be utilized in any other ways. In view of this, the designers asked themselves: is it possible to enrich ordinary people’s lives on the premise of fulfilling the original functions of an exhibition center? Can a higher resource utilization rate be achieved by sharing the same corpus with other types of urban public facilities or by some form of integration?

Intriguing and environmentally-friendly
Consequently, the building’s huge size was reduced in order to temper its “aggressiveness”, compressing this 66,000 m² mega-structure into a height of just 6.6 m. It presents itself as a huge low roof covered in lawn. All around the building sit a multitude of gentle grassy slopes, and thus the whole roof appears to be an extension of the horizon, openly welcoming people to walk onto the roof. In comparison to raising the building and returning the bottom level to the public in the first-stage design, the second-stage design returns all the land occupied by the building to the public, in a more intriguing and environmentally-friendly “3D-Park” manner.


(Figure 11)(people can easily access the roof through the grass slope which would naturally attract people to rest and stopover).jpg

Photos: Mao Liaoping


Cloud Town, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

Cloud Town, Hangzhou

approach design Studio

Design team
Ma Di (Principal Architect),
Jin Xin, Mao Liaoping,
Jiang Sheng, Zhang Jialiang,
Shen Weifen, Wang Yang, Mao Mengjun

approach design Studio

Mao Liaoping

Official opening
September 2017

Construction costs
RMB 510 million
EUR 65.3 million

Looking at both designs, one is “light” and the other is “heavy”. People enter from the bottom of one building, then exit on top of the other without realizing it. A harmonious and interesting dialogue is thus initiated on the same site.

The design embedded one-third of the 9-m-high exhibition hall in the ground, so people entering the venue proceed downhill. This has created a strong contrast from the ceremonial large flights of steps of existing convention centers. The building almost fills the entire second-stage site due to its low height, and both building density and greening ratio break through the existing design specifications (even if the roof was covered with green land, it could only realize 20 percent of the total greening demand).

Rooftop is more than a park
Roughly ten types of fun facilities are available such as a football pitch, watchtower, sand pit, studio theater, roller-skating platform, community vegetable garden, pavilion and hopscotch, all of which are linked by a 760 m long winding rooftop runway. All these seemingly non-exhibition-center-related designs attract numerous top-level conferences here. On usual days, large numbers of people come here every day to exercise, rest and play. With spontaneous community activities such as township concerts, football matches, carnival and mara­thons going on, the exhibition center has become the place to be for workers and inhabitants of the town on a daily basis.


(Figure 15) (Undulating rooftop runway).jpg

Mao Liaoping


Ports for spontaneous ideas

(Figure 16) (mid-air runway).jpg

Mao Liaoping


A large number of ports have been preinstalled beneath the lawn. Should people have interesting ideas, they can simply uncover the lawn and plug in like LEGO. The free development of the building and activities taking place here can both benefit from this.

The rooftop park extends all the way to the sink-style square at the main entrance, in conjunction with half-enclosing stairs, creating a round-the-clock studio theater.

In the corner, a previously monotonous freight ramp has been redesigned into an undulated origami shape. People utilize it in all sorts of ways – as a roller-skating platform for adolescents or a slide for children.


Sports warehouses

The interior of the building no longer serves solely as an exhibition hall. Through integration of space and functions, it confers a new property of a “sports warehouse”. In absence of a conference, the exhibition hall can be immediately transformed into facilities for a series of sports such as basketball, badminton, table tennis and fitness training, and with the addition of toilets, showers and professional mechanical/electrical equipment, making it a busy location every day.

The construction is not only an exhibition center but also the first public park and stadium for the town. It injects new vitality and infinite possibilities into the town. Looking at the design as a whole, it has neither an eye-catching exterior, nor complex and costly technology, nor obscure and esoteric ideas. The open, composite and civic design alone makes it the most popular place in town, maximizing the public value of the urban resources behind the building.


(Figure 29)(the exhibition hall has become the town’s ‘sports warehouse’).jpg

Mao Liaoping


(Figure 35)(schematic section).jpg

approach design Studio