The Paper Roof by Powerhouse Company

Netherland-based Powerhouse Company’s designs a light-as-air canopy for a reception centre in a new city district Tianjin in China.

The centre in Tianjin makes a simple yet eloquent statement with a sleek glass box topped by a contemporary take on the sweeping roof of traditional Chinese architecture – instantly recognizable, yet uncompromisingly fresh. The perfect harbinger of the new urban landscape that will rise around it, according to the architects at Powerhouse Company, an award-winning architecture office based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Founded in 2005, the firm has grown into a multidisciplinary office of around 100 professionals, with international studios in Beijing, Oslo and Munich.

The canopy roof has been described by the architects as uncomplicated and unpretentious as a piece of paper. The upswept corners are a feature of ancient Chinese buildings and were believed to be auspicious, alongside their function in deflecting rainwater. The diagonal beams of the centre’s roof form a mesh that references a forest canopy, sheltering the glass pavilion beneath with shade like the branches of a tree.

Standing on slender legs, the roof rises to 18.5 meters at its tallest point and extends over an area of 30 x 50 m – defining the outside deck some 5 meters beyond the perimeter of the pavilion. This gesture anchors the airy, transparent pavilion to the site. Inside the pavilion, a large atrium and the extensive views of the surrounding lake and gardens reinforce the open atmosphere and create a bright, welcoming space. The second floor includes offices and a viewing balcony, as well as seating areas for smaller and larger groups.

“The iconic roof design plus the flexibility of the interior will ensure a long and versatile future for our building,” according to Stijn Kemper Partner at Powerhouse Company.

Made not from paper but from powder-coated steel, Paper Roof’s canopy appears weightless by colouring it in the same blue as the sky or as the architects perceive it as the colour of heaven. In contrast, the dark horizontals of the pavilion moor it firmly into the ground beneath. An elegant statement, it stands on long legs that are just 45cm thick and rises at the front in a friendly gesture towards both visitors and the nearby lake. The roof structure was welded together on-site – the curved sections being prefabricated – and then finished by hand to create a smoothly polished surface. The same high level of finishing was applied to the near-seamless glass facade of the pavilion.

“The open areas around the atrium accommodate the public programme while the rest of the upper floor houses more private office spaces,” says Remko van der Vorm Project Architect at Powerhouse Company.




Status                                              Built

Timeline                                          2019

Size                                                  1500 m2

Client                                               Uni-Hiku

City                                                  Tianjin

Country                                           China


Co-architect          Beijing Victory Star Architectural & Civil Engineering Design Co., Ltd

Photography: All images are by  Weiqi Jin

Courtesy: The Powerhouse Company