Our work on the UNIHZ R&D Building started 8 years ago, when the client, also one of my old friend approached me and expressed his concerns: the project was located in the Suzhou Industrial Park and there was not enough time left before the construction starts; as the project owner, he wouldn’t use much space of the building for the time being, therefore, how to lease out the extra spaces becomes quite a headache, as there were many similar R&D office projects in the surrounding area, the competition was quite intense, nevertheless, he was not sure about his own use of the building in the future... All in all, situations that many projects may encounter!
The project occupies only a piece of ordinary land in a "checkerboard" block. What the MultiArch team and I have always been doing is rethinking and recreating value for ordinary lands and projects, and I always believe it’s very meaningful to think about the following and breaking of design rules!
"Shou”(to follow), “Po”(to break), “Li”(to recreate), are the concepts derived from the practicing of kendo. "Shou" means that you must follow the teacher's instructions to reach the level of proficiency in the initial stage. "Po" refers to breaking through the original norms, and "Li" refers to self-innovating tricks and reaching a difference level of excellence. In this project, "Shou” and “Po" are manifested in many aspects of the architecture design!
In the treatment of the project land (a unit in a checkerboard block), our design did not follow the convention of creating a large entrance plaza, but adopted an enclosed building layout that best fits the checkerboard street profile. The design of two L-shaped buildings not only permitted continuous and unified street façades but also made it possible to make the most use of the land area. The two passages running through the courtyard and the city, and the loose appearance of building volumes has followed the basic office building rules but was manifested in a different architectural language. The two buildings, one large and one small, have increased the flexibility of construction and was well prepared for possible use changes in the future.
Research has found that the most common area demand of office units is about 500 square meters. We assumed each 500 square meter as a unit, and came up with the architectural concept of "stacked units". The gaps between units were design as scattered small gardens with two-story clear heights that allow plants to grow. Distributed small gardens can increase the value of each office unit, and can be realized with normal construction costs.
The concept of "stacked units" variating in two different sized buildings and in different orientations has also followed the “Shou” and “Po” of architectural design. The south part of the project enjoys good sunlight and larger construction volume, hence, we created more terraces in rhythm to present a harmonized image. The west part, due to its function as the main entrance, we mutated and cantilevered the units at the southwest corner to form an entrance sign and a porch space . The north part, which is smaller in building volume, therefore is less likely to be split up into smaller spaces for leasing; besides, there is no direct sunlight, it is no good to be built into gardens, therefore, we designed the façade flat, with only a little cutting on the top and edges, creating outdoor space to echo with the overall architectural form.
For commercial projects, we absolutely give priority to the maximization of the commercial value; but at the same time, we often try to break the "unity" image of the building and use individualized, non-centralized design to highlight the existence of each individual in the project! In this project, in response to the need for leasing, we treated the building as a stack of office units, allowing each unit to be identifiable from its appearance, has its own small sky garden, and be able to place their company logo on the façade wall. The building is like a "vertical office settlement" in which every individual is respected and identifiable.
We selected four different colored stained-glasses for the facade of the building to form a mottled texture; the bottom of the cantilevered volume and the independent cylinder are made of orange-yellow aluminum panels, responding to the temperament of the industrial park and adding vivid vibes to the project!
This project lasted for eight years, during which time, the project owner was changed, and the whole market situation has also changed, but the building was built according to the original plan without any change! This project, which is designed to increase the rental value by adopting a decentralized and individualized design, is said to be very popular in the market now. Recently, a word top class company has taken the fancy of it and rented the larger building as a whole... no need for dividing spaces and leasing anymore. The final use of a design is often unpredictable, which makes interesting stories!
We admit the value of business in this modern world, but business and culture are not always on the opposite. In this era, business is so important! The characteristics of each era will become its culture, business is also shaping the culture of our days. However, for most commercial projects, buildings are treated as commodities or even consumer goods, therefore, the design of which always follows the most practical and conventional laws, which we think is short-sighted, and is smothering the creativity of architectural design! To cope with the ever-changing market, it’s absolutely not enough to design commercial projects by only following conventional laws or routines. We hope to create projects that can withstand the test of time!
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