Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
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The Hangzhou Oxygen Factory Transformation project aims to introduce cultural and commercial programs in the confines of an industrial heritage complex in the city center of Hangzhou.
The Hangzhou Oxygen Factory complex was established in the 1950s as one of the first large scale industrial facilities in the region and expanded over the following decades to become a significant industrial facility in China and even in Asia. Situated initially at the outskirts of the city, this industrial campus soon became a center in its own and employed more than one thousand workers during its peak period, offering work, life and leisure for employees and their families. During China’s rapid urbanization from 1980s to 2000s, this vibrant and productive cluster was immersed into the city, eventually becoming part of the core urban area of Hangzhou.
In 2009, Hangzhou Oxygen Factory moved away from its historic site to Hangzhou’s new periphery. Subsequently the campus with a group of seven representative factory buildings have been preserved from demolition and listed as industrial heritage, offering an opportunity for cultural and commercial re-programming thus weaving the industrial past into Hangzhou’s contemporary urban fabric.
In its present state, the historic site is a collection of raw industrial spaces shrouded in a dense landscape of lush vegetation. After eliminating the non-essential annex buildings and additions, the factories and the open spaces are returned to their initial condition. Though originating from a generic industrial typology, each of the factory buildings has its own identity resulting from the specific needs of production processes. Footprint, height, window openings and structural details are adapted purposefully to the production activities they contained.
The point of departure of the Hangzhou Oxygen Factory Transformation project is the protection of the historic industrial campus and careful preservation of the heritage buildings. Outside, factory facades are preserved and restored to their historic condition in finish, color and detail. Traces of annex buildings are conserved as memory of the evolving industrial past. Inside the factories, the very large production halls, its natural lighting as well as the use of raw materials and industrial detailing are maintained as much as possible. The original structure has been reinforced to comply with current structural and safety requirements while adhering as close as possible to its original shape and dimension.
Programming reacts to the specificity of each factory and introduces a multiplicity of large-scale cultural programs including museums, auditorium, showrooms and cinema. A hotel, together with retail and food & beverage programs complement the cultural program and provide substantial revenue for the entire development.
Each building stands alone but is related through coherent architectural interventions. Large-scale full height spaces specific to the geometry of each factory are defined according to the “void and dense” concept to offer contrasting spaces to the densified areas. The “void” spaces are as open and flexible as possible, allowing for diversity of contents and evolving curatorial concepts. While “dense” area with additional levels laid out for retail or F&B around the large open space generate the required GFA and provide the density for a viable commercial operation.
New cores are introduced to provide vertical circulation as well as fire safety while subdividing the space based on programmatic and functional requirements. Elements such as public stairs, benches and large openings are carved into the fair faced concrete, to offer functionality as well as playful experience, and render a sculptural expression.
Adhering to the existing columns of the factory hall, new structure elements are added and designed as counter pieces to precisely match the existing structure, thus not alter the existing structural grid by imposing a new grid. The fitting shapes of old and new highlights the industrial heritage and translates it into a contemporary expression. Foundation of the new structure are linked with that of the existing columns to improve structural stability of the factory hall. New interventions are complimentary to the original but not as opposition or assimilation. The space, structure, infrastructure and materials are choreographed to form a balanced combination and harmonious duo of old and new.
The factory complex is linked by a series of exterior plazas across the campus. The plazas have been conceived as open spaces between the factories for industrial production needs such as transfer between production stages, loading & unloading of goods and storing of raw materials. Traces of train rails and roads can be found in the open spaces reminiscent of a busy and lively industrial era. With opening of the campus to the public and the transformation of the heritage buildings, these public plazas will become a new destination in the city of Hangzhou.
The only new building amid the old factories is the key stone of the campus master plan and will be the center of the Hangzhou Oxygen Factory Transformation project. Positioned at the south-west corner of Factory 2, it echoes the geometry of the existing building and frames the plaza to the west. By elevating the main floor and minimizing the elements that touch the ground, the plaza remains free and visual connections across the campus is preserved. The covered space with its grand steps proposes a new type of public space which can be programmed spontaneously and for many types of activities. The main floor of New Build is conceived as an open plan and glazed on all four sides. From here visitors have a panoramic view to the entire campus when attending events, lectures, exhibitions or banquets. The use of exposed concrete and the sculptural expression of the cores are coherent with the intervention inside the factories.
From the New Build, an elevated walkway system reaches out to the factories. It connects various programs in the factories on the second level and offers additional landscape qualities atop and below. On the second level the Highline presents itself as a linear garden with seating areas embedded within lush bushes and flowers, while sun shading and rain shelter is provided on the ground floor. The structural elements are designed to contain stairs, elevators and kiosks.