Los Angeles, CA


Kinmen Passenger Service Center

A New Era of Communication

This proposal for the Kinmen Passenger Service Center is based on the idea that what we are building is not just a piece of infrastructure, but also a cultural intervention. To do this, the unique history of Kinmen must be considered. Kinmenese culture has evolved from its Fujian Province traditions and formal establishment as “Kinmen” (meaning: “Golden Gate”) in the 14th century, but also by becoming a multi-cultural crossing-point for trade, having been occupied by the Japanese from 1937-1945 in World War II, and then becoming part of the territory of the Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government after the Chinese Civil War in 1949. During the period between 1949 and 1992, Kinmen was transformed from a quiet island culture into a military front line, which radically changed its way of life. Its ground became three-dimensionalized into a network of underground bomb shelters and sea tunnels for protecting people and ships, while its surface became hardened by military installations. Communication in this era of tense Taiwan-Mainland relations consisted of physical shelling, and visible propaganda slogans and lines of tanks along opposing shorelines.

Nevertheless, there is another more nuanced story here, that of deep understanding between the Kinmenese and the Mainland Chinese, a sense of shared cultural and economic history and destiny, a sharing of resources (such as water during wartime, and now, in the form of a planned pipeline), and a shared appreciation of the historical significance of the Island and its sublime natural habitats and architecture. 

Now, as cross-strait tensions subside, and this war-time era comes to a close, Kinmen Island can be re-vitalized and re-discovered through new modes of communication. Its heritage parks, wildlife, historical villages and also its military heritage will be a draw for a new generation of visitors and immigrants. The opening of free travel between China and Kinmen in 2001 was a critical moment, now expanded by the ‘Three-Links’ pilot program. Recently, unprecedented high-level talks between Taiwanese and Chinese government officials have underscored the commitment of both to open communication, trade, and transportation. In this context, designing a Port Terminal for Kinmen is not only a unique opportunity but a great responsibility. The Kinmen Passenger Service Center should set the tone for the island both in terms of reflecting its complex identity and affiliations, but also in terms of presenting a vision of its future.


Roof Silhouettes, Interweaving Patterns, and Color

Our design is intended to both symbolize a new era of open communication with Mainland China, and reflect the unique local culture of Kinmen. The strong silhouette of our design, designed to be seen from Xiamen, is characterized by dynamic figures arising from the terminal roof. The building will be a beacon for openness and transformation- literally the “golden gate” of Kinmen Island. The roof silhouette is not a generalized gesture, but rather one which is associated with the specific traditions of Kinmenese architecture. This history is defined by its complex and varying roof ridges, exemplified in the Swallowtail and Saddleback roof silhouettes seen throughout the island, originating in Taiwan and China’s Fujian Province.

The tradition of complex interwoven materials and patterns in Kinmen architecture is also resonates in our project. The envelope design is characterized by three interfering but complimentary patterns- freeform seams, maze-like projections, and cross-grain panels. The simultaneity of these patterns produce a heterogeneous overall effect reminiscent of local Kinmenese brickwork with its distinctive diagonal striping, as well as other unconventional juxtapositions of material scales and orientations seen everywhere on the Island. Our project is conceived of as a contemporary interpretation of that craft and sensibility.

The rich palette of colors found on Kinmen Island-- in its architecture, decorative arts, and in its diverse species of birds and flowers in its National Parks-- are part of what makes it unique. In our design, we celebrate the colors of Kinmen in the interior of the Terminal. Citrus colors such as reds, oranges, yellows, and greens are used for freestanding furniture, wall graphics, roof planting, and lighting effects, to create a cornucopia of color effects. These colors glow from inside the terminal out across the water at night. The terminal appears not as a piece of infrastructure but rather as a mirror or the interior of the Island.


Nested Crystals and Sectional Spaces

The building design is based on nesting five dynamically oriented Crystals into an elevated horizontal box. These Crystals push out into the box, as if stretching it, creating serene formal transitions from horizontal to vertical and hard to soft. In this way, the building appears simultaneously as a series of objects and a new whole object. On the interior, vaulted sectional spaces are created between the Crystals and the loose-fit outer shell of the building. The Departures Hall becomes a sequence of compressed and expanded spaces, creating discrete and memorable spatial experiences for travelers. The vaulted interstitial spaces also create a stack effect, where warmer air rises, drawing in cooler air from openings below. This constitutes a sustainable natural ventilation system which will be able to supplement the conventional air-conditioning system and reduce overall energy use from fall through spring.

The Crystals are arranged in plan such that they naturally organize flows of people from to ships, providing them with an automatic sense of orientation. Spatially, this is more akin to the varied sequences of spaces found in nature rather than the gridded space of the city or a Modernist free plan. This creates a calm interior experience for travelers, free of excessive passageways and signage.

The Crystals contain various programs which need enclosure such as commercial space and restaurants on the Departures Level as well as upper level administration functions. Passengers who are shopping or relaxing on upper mezzanines of the Crystals are offered views down into the vast, bustling terminal, creating a three-dimensional spatial experience. The upper levels of the two biggest Crystals are reserved for Port Operations, Administration, and the Vessel Traffic Control Center. A double-skin envelope system is used in parts of the Crystals, with simple curtain wall construction on the inside and perforated metal panel on the outside. This allows for views out while also filtering daylight and maintaining the strong silhouette of the building. In addition, because the Crystals are buildings-within-a-building, they can contain microclimates with more tightly controlled temperature and humidity levels than in the naturally ventilated Departures Hall.


The Green Roof Promenade

The Green Roof Promenade creates a virtual extension of the greenbelt to the east of the site, turning the building into a link between land and ocean. It is open to all types of user groups, and can be programmed with any number of recreational, cultural, and social events. It weaves along both the ocean-side of the building, with views of arriving ships, Lesser Kinmen Island, Jiangong Island, and Mainland China, and the inland side of the building, with views of the nearby Shuitou Village and the Maoshan Tower on the hill.

The varied roof forms create a dynamic spatial experience and also offer protection from sun and wind. Several pathways cascade down into the public areas of the Departures Hall and connect to restaurant, shopping, and cultural functions nested inside the roof forms. The Promenade becomes an extension of the unique natural environment of Kinmen, including its wide diversity of plants species, providing an atmosphere of sanctuary.


Port Logistics, Security, and Flexibility

The project is based on state-of-the-art Port Terminal design. It is focused on fluidity of passenger movement, clear security zones and passenger processing, and flexibility for future contingencies and growth. The separation between Departures and Arrivals onto two levels, with independent drop-off and pick-up zones is the most significant part of this strategy. It alleviates circulation bottlenecks both for passengers and vehicular traffic, creating uninterrupted flows, and capacity for future increases in traffic loads. Within each level, secured areas for X-ray checks, passport and ticketing checks, and waiting are clearly defined with flexible opaque and glass partitions, which can be moved to accommodate future re-organizations of the Terminal to accommodate different vessel sizes and changing proportions of domestic and international traffic.

In advance of any future reconfigurations, the Terminal as designed can already accommodate both international and domestic vessels at every gate, with passport control and customs control zones in place at all points of embarking and disembarking, which, in the case of domestic travel, can simply be by-passed. While the competition brief currently only calls for international ship and ferry routes, we believe that the Terminal must be flexible enough to be able to respond to the fast-changing Taiwan-Mainland relations and the potentials of expanding the Kinmen Port Terminal network to include more distant ports of call in Southeast Asia and beyond.

The Phase Two expansion is planned for the east side of the site, to accommodate Dock S4 and eventually Docks S5 and S6. The Departures and Arrivals levels can be extended easily and economically without any alteration of the base project and its circulation and structural grid. The existing boarding corridor could also simply be extended as an armature to connect to Ships docking further east.


Green Energy

The design incorporates three primary strategies for green building design: natural ventilation, rainwater reclamation, day lighting. Passive natural ventilation will be used during the months of November through March, when outside temperatures make it feasible. The vaulted interstitial spaces of the interior will exhaust warm air out of the building, pulling in cooler air from outside through sensor-controlled, operable louvers at the Departures Level. The louvers at the top and bottom will be automatically closed during high winds or rain. This system will save energy and allow the building to be less dependent on its active air-conditioning system, which is required for hot and humid summer months.

The conventional air conditioning system that will supplement the natural ventilation system will include air handling units and cooling towers at the peaks for the two large Crystals, located behind a light perforated metal panel construction. This will shroud them from visibility from the Green Roof Promenade and large approaching ships, while allowing them access to high-quality fresh air. This system will be a ducted variable air volume system in the Departures Hall, with fan coil units located in the Crystals for precise local control.

Rainwater will be collected on the expansive roof surface, both from the network of wide architectural seams as well as in gutters hidden below the open-joint rain screen of the roof. This water will be recycled into irrigation for the surrounding landscape and greywater for internal building use. Rainwater will be stored in a sub-basement for off-peak use. Daylighting will be provided in the Departures Hall primarily from its perimeter glazed facade, which either faces north or is self-shaded to allow ambient rather than direct sunlight to penetrate. A shaded skylight in the center of the Departures Hall, also provides light to the interior all the way down to the Arrivals Lobby. In addition, the double skin system of the Crystals will provide natural daylighting to offices and other upper-level functions. All of these measures are intended to reduce the carbon footprint of the building by significantly reducing the daytime energy required to light the interior of the building. This also offsets the load on the air conditioning system due to the reduced heat produced from light fixtures.

Other green building strategies intended to offset the carbon footprint of the building and attaining a Silver Level Status include the reduction of carbon dioxide and the increase of biodiversity through vegetation on the Green Roof Promenade, in the Bamboo Garden in the central atrium of the building, and in the surrounding site landscaping. The shell of the building will be optimally insulated, building equipment will be selected for energy and water efficiency, LED lighting will be used in general, and heat-recovery wheels will be used to reclaim energy from air exhausted from the building. The building skin will be light in color in order to maintain a high albedo and avoid absorption of solar radiation and the associated heat gain. Solar photovoltaic panels will not be utilized due to the inevitable corrosion from salty sea air that would greatly reduce their efficiency and maintenance cost, as well as the rainy monsoon and intermittent foggy weather experienced on Kinmen Island.


Structure and Envelope

The structure of the building will be based on an economical 8X8 Meter base column grid and a combination of reinforced concrete and steel superstructure. The proposed concrete basement is an economical rectangular shape with the base column grid, to be built using diaphragm perimeter walls to de-water the site. The foundation consists of a pile supported mat foundation, with an internal sump system to control water penetration into the basement. The Arrivals and Departures Level floors are poured-in-place flat plate and slab and beam construction, and the four primary vertical cores are to be reinforced concrete. On the Departures Level, the floor is shaped in section to cantilever and tapered to the perimeter.

The Crystals are steel frame with composite deck construction for interior floors. The Crystals, in combination with their internal concrete cores, constitute the lateral bracing system for the project. The roof drapes over the Crystals, spanning from stiff rings embedded internally in the roof cavity to columns along the perimeter of the Departures Level. The roof is based on a two-way truss system with 8x8 Meter bays, including transverse beams at 4 Meter intervals for cladding support.

The building envelope is a combination of opaque and perforated composite panel, suitable for the corrosive marine environment. The majority of the envelope is single skin, but areas which require daylight or views, especially on the upper levels of the two large Crystals, have a double-skin construction of opaque and low-e glazed curtain wall construction with perforated panel in front on a light steel construction, with access space between. The geometry of the roof is primarily planar with limited zones of one-way curvature, which can be achieved simply with edge returns to maintain panel shape. Panel sizes can be large as they are lightweight and can be delivered by barge and erected directly by barge crane. The glazed facades of the Departures Hall will be high-performance low-e glazing, optimized to insulate as well as allow the penetration of daylight. 

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Kinmen Island, ROC
Firm Role: Architect
Additional Credits: Architect:
Tom Wiscombe Architecture, Inc.

JV Partner:
Fei & Cheng Associates

Greg Otto, Walter P. Moore
Paul Chen, Supertech Consultants International

Gene Lin, Heng-Kai Engineering Consultants