Leigh & Orange design a new mixed-use development for Dalian that draws on the city's cultural history
Located in Zhongshan district, Dalian, the Minzhu Plaza project was proposed to be a high-end, mixed-use service apartment building. The site is composed of 2 lots both facing Minzhu Plaza; one of those Russian-style city plazas built in the earlier 19th century colonial era. In between the 2 lots is one of the radiant streets from the plaza, Mingze Road. Dalian is determined to be an international city in northern China. It is also well known for its cultural as well as historical interest. Zhongshan district, where the project is located, is a mixed-use urban historical area of Dalian.
Creating a city landmark as well as sustaining the local character of Dalian became the most important issue the architects considered in this project. Through the site analysis, they concluded three culture characters that they wanted to emphasise: harbour city culture, plaza ambience and tram culture. In Chinese culture, 'harbour' means 'going home', so considering that plazas play a significant role in connecting different parts of Dalian city, Leigh & Orange try to introduce the concept that the plaza, as a place holding the most precious memories of the citizens, be part of their journey back home. In this process, the plaza culture is not only discussed in the large urban scale as a city but also in a smaller scale; as building blocks, as living spaces and as homes.
The architects researched the history of Minzhu Plaza and found that it was the only plaza in Dalian which had a tram passing through. Consequently, at the bottom retail space, they introduce a new tram line passing through the commercial plaza, as well as different movement patterns on the ground plane via landscape elements, bring the 'illusion' of dynamic movement across the site .
The new urban landscape offers a showcase which keeps and reminds of 'collective memory' in people’s city life. As for the podium and tower elevation design, the architects designed the façade as an integrated cultural element of the city. Based on the analysis of the urban fabric and the colours of the neighbourhood, the new tower’s exterior is formed in a double-layering of grey glass and screens of varying densities made of terra-cotta frame, optimising views and shading. At night, the glowing public space will become an iconic activity marker in the neighbourhood.