Tsing Tao Pearl Visitor Center

Qingdao, China

1 / 13 – Photo credit: Nic Lehoux
“The Pavilion is a framework to enjoy the beauty of nature and a spot of serenity for the visitor to become oriented to the magnificence of the place and the promise of a tranquil life in this community.”



The gentle slope of meadow rising to rock outcroppings in narrow bands of farmed terraces form a unique and contained view of nature. Taking cues from the traditions of Chinese architecture, a sturdy stone plinth covered by cloud-like roof represented the site’s character to us. The Pearl Visitor Center reinterprets this elemental approach, enabled by advanced technology and fresh thought. Columns tilt like trunks of saplings and rise from the permanence of the stone base to lightly touch the flowing forms of the roof. From within, the gentle curves of the roof loosely frame the ridge of the mountain. When viewed from the mountaintop the roof blends into the rolling topography, populated with grasses similar to the natural meadows.

To create a roof that felt unexpectedly light, a series of delicate wood pieces gently shift in position as they are assembled to transform the individually straight pieces of roof into a series of undulating forms rising and falling in elevation, countering the elevation of the opposite edge. The angles of the wood columns vary, articulated by unique universal connectors on both bottom and top support the slender round lengths of wood. The first of their kind in the world, these connectors allow almost unlimited variation in the placement of the columns.

The exterior walls are transparent, opening up views to the beautiful landscape surrounding the project. The roof floats free of the base and materials continue from inside to the outside enabling the visitor to feel more connected to the natural site.

Project Data

Qingdao, China
2011 – 2012
23,680 sf


International Architecture Design Award
Citation for Design
Honorable Mention
Commendation, Community & Residential Structures Category of the Structural Awards
Ron Thom Award of the Canadian Wood Council