There is a container project. Do you have any interests in it?
I've never done such project before, but I'd like to have a try.
At the time, I had just finished my last project and was still on vacation. I didn't know that we got an urgent matter without enough budget, which was also unexpected by our clients. Jining Overseas Chinese Town Project planned and designed by our company was about to acquire land. The urgent matter was the development of the temporary headquarters with 0.95 square kilometers of land to be developed.
It was termed temporary headquarters because of "container", " research with little investment but quick result", "no enough budget" and "no expectation". We were secretly pleased that it would be the "most indulgent" and creative environment since it wasn’t being noticed by people. But later it became the hugely popular project, which we really did not expect. The container project became popular before it’s put into use. It had even been listed as a key project of the city, receiving visitors while under construction. A variety of visits and inspections have made a lot of "trouble" for our clients.
The design preconditions were very clear, which were to build a garden architecture of no more than 2000 ㎡ within the area of a primary school playground through using two container modules. The resolving idea was also very clear, including function classification, space wandering, core strengthening, and the venue with the commanding point. With the combination of the modular assembly mode and Chinese traditional garden space, the strong and rough industrial style immersed in the delicate and gentle courtyards, the extremely artificial geometric scale presented an extremely natural unique insight, all of which broke through the traditional cognitive expectation. The field was imbued with extreme drama tension. The process of arranging and assembling containers was just like building the Great Wall. In the cheerful atmosphere, the technical parameters of containers had also been challenged. Three days later, with great trust and the connivance, we gained permission to go ahead with the proposed scheme.
This headquarters was different from the headquarters in the traditional sense. It did not take office as its dominant part, but moved work and life into the space, cleverly integrated the three elements of nature, architecture and display, encouraged diversified office methods and social ecology, and carried out new exploration on the spatial organization of the headquarters, so as to provide more space support for the cognitive iteration of on-site office.
We have tried to show the dream of "borderless joy" described by the Ten-mile Decorated Corridor of Jining Overseas Chinese Town through the headquarters with an insignificant scale of land. Thus, people can see a larger universe from a small world. But the modular container has a strong dominance over the field, which brings a sense of order, but also hides a huge worry. How to break through the limitation of standardization and create a lively small world has become a significant challenge in design.
Several stories in the deepening design stage:
At the main entrance door, we made a large cantilever which broke through the technical parameters of the container, and hung weather resistant steel plate outside the cantilever and engraved words on the steel plate. We had too many choices as for the engraved words, because we are in the hometown of Confucius and the fairy poet, Li Bai. But in the end, we didn’t choose those well-known sayings. We took a sentence from Blow the Water, which was the knowledge storm activity held in Overseas Chinese Town. "There is no boundary in nature. The boundary is set by people. The ups and downs of the boundary are hidden in the corner of history. In the process of discovering the boundary, I am constantly breaking down the barriers to new ideas. "
This remark on "no boundary" also captures Ten-mile Decorated Corridor with "borderless joy" which we created in large areas. Of course, we can’t hang a weather resistant steel plate outside the cantilever in the case of no enough budget. But during field operations, we could work a miracle by scraping the ordinary steel plates welded on the container, and the plates would get rusty over time. They got rusty in a few months. When the sun shines through the hollow steel plates into the reception hall, the exposed headquarters is filled with spiritual brilliance.
As for the wide courtyard and the narrow courtyard, the functional space of the headquarters is classified as office and life. The wide courtyard represents the fast working area with wide space, and the narrow courtyard represents the delicate slow living area. Courtyards with different tones match the landscape with different techniques. The wide courtyard is comfortable and the narrow yard is delicate. In the wide courtyard, we make a borderless pool and carefully structured the pool. We carefully thought about the methods of work, materials, equipment and floodlighting. However, the "urgent matter" can't wait for this kind of fiddly job. Therefore, the wide brim pool is presented on the scene, and even the overflow ditch of the original borderless pool is left. It's a pity, but it does not affect the whole. Fortunately, we kept pine trees in the pool, which is enough to make the pool look better. However, due to the pressure of construction period, the narrow courtyard does not show differences from the wide one. The consistent landscape technique makes it less interesting.
Three kinds of corridors can provide three kinds of different space walking experience. We have two kinds of modular containers, but it doesn't mean that the large-scale container must be a functional room, while the small-scale container must be a corridor. Why not make full arrangement. Therefore, as for the corridor connecting the densely populated space, we adopted large-scale containers. Whereas, as for the corridor leading to the logistics area, we adopted small-scale containers, which were also set as the inner corridor in the appropriate functional space.
Corridor and function room can be interpenetrated or juxtaposed. For the corridor facing the square in front of the main entrance, we closed it with glass, which presented a sense of spatial definition. In this way, we isolated the bustle of the city outside glass, and kept the scenery of still waters running deep within the glass. For the corridor connecting the the core space of the exhibition hall, we chose the open corridor with borderless view, from where visitors can get a better view of mountain and water scenery. For the corridor in the logistics area, we chose the external metal mesh, not only because of a good sight but also because of a measure of site security.
With these three different design strategies, we have established a clear-cut connection between the yards and the external environment of the headquarters, and expanded the scale of the field. Due to the pressure of budget and construction period, Chinese garden construction techniques of construction scene such as borrowing scenery, frame scenery and opposite scenery can not be realized. They really constructed the headquarters as quickly as building of Fire God Mountain.
The watchtower is the commanding point of the headquarters. It needs to be paved here. The site is adjacent to Shengxian Road, which is the main road in the north, but the low-lying area is nearly 3 meters lower. How should we effectively display the city, how to shape a strong memory anchor? Heightening may be the most accessible way under the pressure of budget and construction period. We didn’t know the stacking limit of containers. The 5-storey watchtower has broken through the technical parameters of containers. Due to our insistence on the spiritual fortress and the support from the clients for our design points, we succeeded finally. I once climbed up the headquarters before the installation of the handrails (do not imitate dangerous actions). From where I could overlook the whole headquarters, the area of Ten-mile Decorated Corridor, and even the Jining Section of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Standing here, we can witness the whole process of "Ten-mile Decorated Corridor with borderless joy" growing out of nothing.
When the rudiments of containers first appeared, their cool appearance and vivid image had already become popular. The feedback I often heard from all sides was, "I didn't expect it.". According to an eyewitness, it is the first container project in Jining City, and almost every day teams with the headquarters under construction or to be built come to investigate the project.
The number of employees has grown from 20 to 80. Some single rooms have been used in combination, so there will be a big room with two doors in the middle, which is similar to the crossing scene in the TV Drama named How Long Will I Love U. The "temporary" duration has been extended, the site has been expanded before it is put into use, and even bus parking areas have been added.
I went to the site once before the intensive decoration, and the clients have already started to rob the office. Being favored by users, it is probably the most fulfilling moment for architects.
"The Corridor with borderless joy" has played a prelude, and I will continue the design of Ten-mile Corridor. When we climb the watchtower again in the future, we will have a panoramic view of the corridor with borderless joy.