Urbanlogic’s design was chosen by an expert judging panel, who studied the shortlist of six entries in depth before selecting the winner. This year’s jury were: Jason Balls, Design Director at EPR Architects, John Mcrae, Director and co-owner of Orms, and Julian Anderson, Studio Director at Bates Smart. The judges praised the winning design for its clear and effective response to an unusual client brief, together with its challenge to traditional commercial building typology.
The client - a successful manufacturer of glass products - asked the architects to find an appropriate design response for upgrading his production facilities into a one-stop arts production and innovation centre. Struggling with rising production costs, many Chinese companies are upgrading their businesses from mass production to design, marketing and cultural services. In this context, the brief included four components: glass art production facilities (the “arts factory”), an innovation and auction hall, a small museum, and a boutique hotel for VIP clients. Jason thought the design responded well to these requirements, saying: “I feel the architects have got a very clear brief from their client. They have made a really great headquarters for the company, which showcases the industrial processes and brings something more to it. I think it’s a very interesting project.”
The first challenge was to find a common language for the wide variety of uses. Taking the production facilities as the starting point, Urbanlogic chose a warehouse typology to tie together all four components. The designers created a neutral canvas by using simple building techniques, with exposed concrete frames, bricks and prefabricated concrete panels. John stated: “This project really does challenge a typology, it’s bringing different uses together but is not distinguishing through separate materials. I think it’s very clever.”
By extruding the section of a typical 3-nave warehouse across the length of the site, a continuous, undulating roofscape is formed that stretches across all functional areas. The roofscape oscillates like a frequency curve, with sections carved slightly upwards towards the eaves, resembling the shape of the region’s traditional Chinese roofs. John commented: “I like the idea that it is a giant industrial shed which has been sculpted and carved, the production, retail and hotel become part of the whole vicinity.”
As a further inspiration from traditional Chinese architecture, and as protection from their harsh industrial surroundings, four courtyards perform different functions within the structure. The courtyards are traversed in a sequence from public to private, reflecting the principle of ancient Chinese courtyard houses and imperial architecture. The largest courtyard will be used for open-air shows, screenings and events. The jury thought the inviting nature of the design, mitigating the harshness of industrial typology, would be successful in meeting the brief’s challenge to showcase the production facility to a wider audience. Julian said: “I think this project could be the catalyst for the regeneration of the area, you could imagine it being a real attracter for people coming to visit on the weekend, to use the landscape and the retail which connect back to the river.”
We’d like to take the opportunity to thank not only the jury, but all who entered their projects into this year’s WAN Future Projects Commercial Award 2016.
Business Analyst Specialist