Genzyme Atrium, Research and Development Center in Beijing, China. Courtesy RMJM Hillier.

Genzyme Atrium, Research and Development Center



The new atrium is a steel and glass structure that connects two buildings, which are part of the new 200,000-square-foot Genzyme Corporation Research and Development Center in Beijing’s Zhongguancun Life Science Park. The architectural design by RMJM Hillier focuses on green design and the elegance of steel and glass interaction. The atrium features two glass façades with unique entrances, one with a canopied entrance vestibule and the other set back beneath a cantilevered conference room. The glass and aluminum paneled roof floats above the atrium and eight supporting built-up cruciform columns. The façade split mullions return to become the secondary members of the roof system, creating a seamless transition between wall and ceiling.

Thornton Tomasetti provided preliminary structural design and engineering for the atrium and entrances, creating an integrated structural system that increases efficiency while following the architect’s vision of delicate, split structural elements. Challenges included design of the cruciform columns and double plates for the roof beams and façade mullions. Cruciform columns are not the most efficient type of column and are difficult to interact with plates and beams. The project team was able to innovate elements that worked together to accomplish the architect’s design. Typical details were developed for the stainless steel cruciform columns and split mullions. The atrium was designed with its own lateral system independent from the adjacent buildings and the vestibule canopy was designed to maximize length while minimizing structure.

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