In the Shanghai Hongqiao Wanchuang Center project, the architect explored building a rich and layered relationship between the external urban space and the internal architectural space and injecting the city’s public nature into a building cluster. Thus, shaping the space also empowered the place.
Located in the core area of Qibao Eco Business District, this 118,000 sqm project includes offices, businesses, service facilities and other functions. To the west side of the site runs the Hengjing River, while the north side connects to the central planning green axis, both of which are natural ecological landscape resources. The south and east sides are adjacent to city roads, forming the project’s public interface with the city.
With a view to the urban relationship, the architect set up the main building volume on the east and north interfaces with the city. Different from the usual scattered high-rises with single-family units, the three towers form a whole with a shared atrium created through their enclosing layout, with a complete, clear and recognizable urban feel.
In contrast with the cohesive enclosure-style layout of the main towers, the L-shaped multi-storey small offices along the south and west interfaces with a natural landscape. The pleasant and easily permeable small spaces draw the external landscape into the building cluster, creating a natural, ecological and open office block.
The L-shaped public street (16m wide) between the main building and the multi-storey single offices is an important transition zone for the building to expand into the nearby nature. Extending from north to south, this 18m-24m wide street is a cool alley formed by seven small-volume multi-storey office buildings.
Thanks to the different heights and textures of the office buildings on both sides of the street, two different architectural images co-exist on both sides of the street: one side connects to the public corridor on the ground floor of the main office building, while the other side connects with the cool alley between the multi-storey buildings. The spaces on both sides penetrate into and blend with each other: they are the "same" on both sides of the street, while "different" and "same" constitute rich spatial layering of the street and visual experiences.
The Hongqiao Wanchuang Center’s layout not only relates to the city, but is also integrated with the ecological environment, realizing a natural transition and mutual penetration of different interfaces, so that the buildings are no longer closed boxes, but really open vectors between the city and nature.
The main buildings and the overhead lanes outline the atrium as an irregular space divided into two types of spaces: an open-air courtyard and an indoor atrium. The pleasant and small 25mX10m courtyard turns the entire atrium into a blend of indoor and outdoor, where the natural environment penetrates into the office and leisure environments adding an ecological experience.
The atrium enclosed by the main building is the main part of all the shared atriums and it is the leading, multi-functional, spatially plastic, composite spatial source for the other shared space nodes. Amid the isomorphism of the main building and the multi-storey office buildings, this cross-axial space of multi-dimensional spatial experiences with the atrium as the core, connecting north and south while penetrating east and west, forms one of the main bodies of the public space system.
Starting from the atrium, extending south toward the city square, the 20m setback space forms a liminal space between the building and the city’s streets, where the main entrance of the building and the offices co-create a secluded space. Going northward, one passes through an outdoor courtyard and a 15m wide public alley, elevated and integrated with the alley spaces between the multi-storey office buildings, and finally ends up in the secluded central green axis on the north side. Toward the west, an interior corridor connects to the alley spaces of the multi-storey office buildings, and reaches the Hengjing Riverbank. Toward the east, one can stroll through the overhead corridor leading to the city streets.
The shared atrium rooted in the site’s culture and texture thus forms the link that integrates the green river, cultural park, commercial offices and other site elements and functions as a complex and shared mental place. Users move through spatial sequences of alternating indoor and outdoor spaces—a rich experience of different spatial scales and transitions between the city and nature, emanating from the atrium into four directions.
The atrium forms an important node in the transportation hub and is the enabling core of the entire public system. The four-storey-high glass box lets in natural light into its interior. The atrium shapes the interaction between natural light and lighting, such that this meeting space offers a natural interplay of light and shadow under all weather conditions.
Compared with the independent and scattered traditional lobbies, the 33m x 30m atrium combines functional complexity, intensity, efficiency and shared communication. In terms of space, the shared office spaces and open commercial spaces at the bottom of the atrium are spread out horizontally, while the three-dimensional shared space system extends vertically upward. Together the two dimensions offer a multi-dimensional and multi-level spatial experience.
In terms of functionality, the atrium is a vector for communication, movement and distribution through complex formats such as office lobbies, co-working spaces, fitness, catering, services, etc. When large exhibitions, creative markets and other activities are held here, the shared atrium works as a functional vector in itself, it has the plasticity of functional roles and multiple characters.
In terms of efficiency, the atrium helps to centrally arrange core tubes and property management rooms for intensive and efficient functioning. The atrium also houses elevators from the basement to the office lobbies, which helps reduce the number of core tubes from the towers to the basement and supports indoor connectivity between the office buildings. Through this systematic design, the individual lobbies are transformed from single office functionality to complex and rich functionality, from a business gathering space to an urban public space and from shallow image displays to deep content experiences.
The façade uses brick-red ceramic panels as its main material, with gray stone, copper-colored metal and some glass curtain walls, creating a rhythmic vertical window effect, exquisite and elegant, in a modern approach that cites from the historical memory of Shanghai-style architecture.
The skirt of the main building, made of black stone and glass, offers a sense of stability at the bottom. Both sides of the main entrance are made of pure ultra-white glass to highlight the entrance. The central façade consists of red ceramic panels and a glass curtain wall, which together create a façade effect of alternating virtual and real, with strong rhythm of light and shadow, contrast and order. The top is composed of colored glass and ultra-white glass, the light is part of the main building's façade.
The linear arrangement of the multi-storey office building created redundant interfaces. To break the office building’s interfaces, a staggered arrangement of two facade textures enriches the L-shaped interface. One is a staggered texture at the corner of the street: the entrance on the ground floor is beveled to strengthen the look and feel of an “entrance,” with gray stone and glass windows in the central section arranged in a staggered arrangement. The other type of facade texture in the middle has a base of light gray stone, which conveys a sense of stability and this middle section has glass windows and light gray stone. A certain volume of glass curtain wall sits above the two facade textures, so that the building and the sky form a natural transition and fade into one another.
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