Shenzhen’s new Center for Literature & Art, located in southern China’s Guangdong Province near Hong Kong at the threshold between a forested mountain park and urban center, is a contemporary landmark and cultural confluence between the arts and the rapidly growing metropolis. The Center unites divergent elements of the surrounding cityscape with more fluid, figurative elements of the historic city.

The building, designed by Wil Carson while he was Senior Designer at MMA, is a singular icon for creativity and also a collective sum of the programs, functions, and people supporting its multiple missions, which is manifested in the building’s multilayered façade, composed of a series of external shading devices, or brise-soleil. Individual panels subtly shift to block harsh low-angle sunlight, while simultaneously orienting views from within the Center to the mountain landscape beyond. Visible beyond the white pixilated fabric of the building envelope, individual program elements take on a range of hues and color, creating a spectrum of activity within the singular iconography of the façade

Concentrated on the west, the building’s mass steps eastward, opening a direct connection between the courtyard at the building’s center and its natural context. The Center combines a range of programs, including galleries, proscenium and studio theaters, television studios, cinemas, a library and a large civic auditorium. Individual program elements are organized as a series of glass, light-filled pavilions, interspersed with a series of plazas, gardens, and reflecting pools. At the building’s center, a diagonal stair connection rises upwards from the entry, climbing eight floors to the public gathering spaces at the building’s summit. This vertical street functions as a connective network for this multiplicity of programmatic functions, creating a new interior forum for the city at large.