Architect beats Foster & Partners, Heatherwick Studio and his former practice OMA to win job for tech giant Tencent

Ole Scheeren has triumphed over a star list of architects in a highly competitive international competition to design the new headquarters of China’s biggest company.

The German born and Beijing-based architect saw off practices including Foster & Partners, Heatherwick Studio, Zaha Hadid Architects and his former practice OMA to win the job for technology and entertainment giant Tencent in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

His practice, Büro Ole Scheeren, which has three offices in the Far East, also beat Herzog & de Meuron, Kengo Kuma, Bjarke Ingels Group and Snøhetta with its design for a swirling four-tower scheme on the banks of the Pearl River.

Shenzhen-based Tencent has a market value of USD $378bn and is one of the largest multimedia companies in the world, the largest company in the video games industry and the operator of WeChat, the world’s most-used mobile app.

The 500,000sq m headquarters building, known as Tencent Helix, would be the centrepiece of a 14ha campus on Qianhai Bay comparable in size to Midtown Manhattan.

Tencent Helix 5

The 500,000sq m building would be nearly double the size of tech rival Apple’s Foster & Partners-designed headquarters in California

Designed to accommodate 23,000 workers, the building consists of four towers of various heights twisting upwards from a podium level called the Vortex Incubator, which would house an academy, recreational spaces, a health club and a conference centre.

> Also read: Ole Scheeren completes ‘pixelated’ tower

Below would be the building’s ‘grand lobby’, topped by a large circular skylight in the roof of the podium, containing a mix of restaurants, retail, public amenities and cultural space.

Around the main building would be five standalone ‘wings’ emerging from the landscape providing additional flexible space for the company in the future.

The design of the building, which is almost twice the size of Foster & Partners Apple headquarters in California, has been inspired by Tencent’s meteoric growth since its founding in 1998.

Ole Scheeren said the proposals were “a symbol of the synergies between technology, innovation and growth in a human-centric design”. 

“Its well-structured social ecosystem is a testament to the evolving nature of global headquarters into a complex and interactive ensemble where functionality, sustainability and community come together.”

Büro Ole Scheeren has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Bangkok, London and Berlin. Its projects in China include the 51-storey headquarters of China Central Television in Beijing, the Sanya Horizons hotel in Hainan and the Shenzhen Wave building in Shenzhen.

Tencent Helix 8

The grand lobby, with a large skylight beneath a podium roof garden