Art & Desgin

SOM completes ‘breathing’ bank headquarters in shenzhen, china

shenzhen rural commercial bank headquarters opens


skidmore, owings & merrill (SOM) has completed a 158-meter-tall bank headquarters in shenzhen. situated at the edge of a public park in one of the city’s key business districts, the 33-story tower features a number of strategies that respond to the tropical climate, including an external diagrid to reduce solar gain and operable louvers to bring in fresh air.


SOM was first commissioned to design the HQ for shenzhen rural commercial bank in 2012. the international firm’s work on the project included architecture, mechanical, electrical and plumbing, structural and civil engineering. the tower is LEED platinum and is targeting china green star certification.

images © seth powers



the distinctive diagrid 


the tower’s façade is defined by an external diagrid, which serves as both the building’s structure as well as an important solar shading element. at its base, the diagrid widens to create framed openings and views to the surrounding park and south china sea, a short walk from the building.


‘we’re always exploring opportunities to synthesize inventive engineering solutions with architectural design,’ explains scott duncan, SOM design partner. ‘the rural commercial bank headquarters gave us the chance to incorporate a diagrid—similar to an exoskeleton—that pulls the structure to the exterior and effectively suspends the tower within to create column-free workspaces.’

SOM completes 'breathing' bank headquarters in shenzhen, china
the lobby includes a 15 meter high ‘rain curtain’



earth, water and air


the architects looked to three essential elements—earth, water and air—to design features within the building. the lobby focuses on water, drawing also from feng shui, in which water and wealth are intrinsically linked. a 15 meter high ‘rain curtain’ lines the glass walls; droplets of water cascade down small translucent filaments, providing a visual feature as well as an evaporative cooling effect on hot summer days. the lobby also features a reflective pool, droplet-inspired lighting, and smooth marble walls that evoke water’s effect on stone.


grey granite paving and seating areas, and arrays of trees and ground cover define the main entrance spaces and small gardens at the base of the tower. this tactile experience at ground level transitions and becomes more atmospheric as one progresses up the tower to the open floor plans and ‘floating’ diagrid above. at the crown of the tower, operable walls and an outdoor deck blur distinctions between indoor and outdoor spaces.

SOM completes 'breathing' bank headquarters in shenzhen, china
the lobby also features water droplet-inspired lighting



two vertical atria span the height of the tower. on each floor, employees can use louvers to open and close vents, accessing fresh air from the atria. this allows the building to ‘breathe’ when shenzhen’s climate is pleasant, filling the entire building with fresh air so tenants can enjoy the same air inside as they do outside. by functioning like airways in a body and cycling fresh air throughout the building, these features generate significant savings in environmental and energy efficiency while prioritizing tenant comfort and wellbeing.


interior spaces are defined by a minimal glass perimeter wall and a daylight-responsive shading system. a communicating stairway runs the height of the tower, fostering connectivity and collaboration among coworkers.

SOM completes 'breathing' bank headquarters in shenzhen, china
view down one of the vertical atria

SOM completes 'breathing' bank headquarters in shenzhen, china
the tower is articulated by an external diagrid

SOM completes 'breathing' bank headquarters in shenzhen, china
close-up of the diagrid structure

SOM completes 'breathing' bank headquarters in shenzhen, china
the new bank headquarters is situated at the edge of a public park



project info:


name: shenzhen rural commercial bank headquarters

location: shenzhen, china

architect: skidmore, owings & merrill (SOM)

photography: seth powers

designboom | architecture & design magazine

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