Over a decade in the making, the massively ambitious Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental Hotel certainly lives up to its informal "groundscraper" nickname. Hugging the cliff face of an 88 m (288 ft)-deep disused quarry, the building features an eye-catching waterfall-like glass atrium and an underwater section with restaurant and hotel rooms.

The Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental Hotel is located in Songjiang, Shanghai, China, and comprises 337 rooms. It has a total floorspace of 62,171 sq m (around 670,000 sq ft), which is spread over 18 floors: two above ground and 16 below.

However, the two lowest levels are actually under the water line at the bottom of the quarry and host a restaurant and a selection of guest rooms. The restaurant's glazing faces underwater aquariums so that diners will be able to eat while gazing at the fishes, rather like Snøhetta's upcoming Under.

The building was conceived by Martin Jochman while he was at Atkins, but the architect then founded his own firm, Quarry Associates (QA), as well as a China-registered branch, Jochman Architecture Design Environment ((JADE), to carry on the project. We first saw it back in 2012 as construction began and considerable engineering challenges have been overcome in the meantime, such as the danger of earthquakes and the problem of how to go about building an underwater restaurant down at the bottom of a quarry.

"To construct the substructure, which the underwater rooms and aquariums are part of, the quarry lake was pumped out completely and the mass concrete base placed on the adjusted quarry bottom," Jochman tells New Atlas by email. "Pumping the concrete down 90 m (295 ft) was a problem because of separation of the aggregate through gravity, so new methods for pumping and remixing had to be found. About 60,000 cubic meters (2,118,880 cubic ft) of concrete was used, to create the sub structure and the underwater rooms.

"The steel structure of the main building is embedded into this mass concrete to create a rigid joint at the bottom for seismic reasons (to reduce the effect of the vibration of the structure during an earthquake event). The steel structure is in the form of inverted L shape trusses that are embedded at the bottom and sit on a movement joint on an edge beam on the quarry edge. This beam is deeply anchored into the rock.

"In the event of an earthquake, the upper part of the structure is free to move due to a sliding joint similar to joints used in bridge technology. The steel structure of the building is therefore not fixed to the cliff, but is freestanding with the top supported on the edge beam - quite complex and innovative structure, for which there were no building codes to follow."

Aside from the main building and the underwater sections, the Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental Hotel also boasts an impressive waterfall-shaped glass atrium housing the elevators, as well as an actual waterfall that's man-made (there was a natural waterfall on the site but it often ran dry).

Additionally, a cantilevered glass walkway is installed and the hotel offers various water-based leisure facilities, plus some kind of outdoor-themed entertainment park, a ballroom, and spa.

According to JADE+QA, the building's low orientation, green roof, and a "unique microclimate caused by the thermal properties of the quarry rock mass and the quarry lake," will help it retain a steady temperature year-round with relatively little energy required. Of course, the project also repurposes a manmade quarry that would otherwise be a blight on the landscape.

Source: JADE+QA

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