an excessive minimalism:
BAU478-A U-Park Incubator, Shang Qing Huai, Nanjing

Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province, China

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Discipline

Architecture, Landscape Architecture

Typology

Office, hotel, apartment, retail, public landscape

City

Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province, China

Date

2012 – 2015

Status

Completed 2015

Client

Nanjing Zijing (Jiangning) Scientific Entrepreneur Special Community Construction Development Co, Ltd

Program

Infrastructure for a working community of 10,000, including landscape, hotel and apartments

An excessive minimalism
U-Park Incubator, Shang Qing Huai, Nanjing

becoming Nomad
The history of modern architecture is also the history of exciting utopian visions. However, utopias generally fail because what is seen as a utopia by one or some, often becomes the imposition of a dystopia on the many. Unfortunately, utopias are often so single-minded and exclusive of difference that they alienate a majority of the very society with which they are purporting to engage.

Utopias are a form of meta-narrative, part of a structuralist idea of thought that ultimately suggests overly simple, rigid, and ideological answers to a series of complex, flexible, ever-changing problems. More recently, post-structuralist thought argues that meta-narratives are no longer useful in dealing with the complex opportunities and challenges of contemporary society and posit that a more inclusive and complex philosophical view could yield better results.

Within the 60 years of post-structutralist thought, Deleuze and Guattari have developed a philosophy of creativity that embraces many concepts, including assemblage, abstract machines, the Rhizome, and a resultant aesthetic of the sublime. Deleuze and Guattari have even questioned the very foundations of Western thought, calling for an ontology of becoming, rather than of being, and an epistemology of Nomos, rather than Logos? All of us are, and every thing is, in a state of constant change and to assist in dealing with this process we need become intellectual Nomads.

heterotopia
This post-structuralist thought has been reflected in contemporary architectural discourse and it has been argued that the ordering sensibilities of Alvar Aalto are a source of this attitude in architecture. Aalto’s ordering sensibility has been classified as a collection and coexistence of utopias, what constitutes a heterotopia. Not a singular vision imposed on the many, but a coexistence of an assemblage of utopias for the many.

Aalto’s work, together with the work of Robert Venturi and Dennis Scott-Brown; the other Greys of the post-modern movement influenced and inspired by the post-structuralist text of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture ; Koolhaas and OMAs dirty realism; and a focus during the 80’s and 90’s on the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari; indicate that meta-narratives and utopias no longer hold their allure.

urban context
As China shifts to become the world’s innovator and not just its factory, it is transforming its industrial zones into technopoles. These new research and design (R+D) districts have all the essential ingredients of success: they are adjacent to industry and universities; have the support of government; and are located in a country undergoing massive change.

Shang Qing Huai district is in competition with 21 other new technopoles in Nanjing. The U Park Incubator is this technopole’s first seed development. It is intended to lure enterpises to start-up in, or move to, this district. The project is situated on the northern boundary of the 2 sq km technopole. To the east of the district a fourteen square kilometer residential district is being established. To the west an industry zone and to its north is a university district. The incubator is immediately adjacent to a planned metro station and factory outlets shopping mall. Opposite the site a small park has been completed. To the west an R+D office complex has commenced construction.

five utopias
At first the Shangqinghuai project seems to be a utopian urban project, a Metabolist mega structure or a (Dutch) Structuralist project on steroids, that could go on forever while ignoring both program and context. But this project is not another utopia. It is an engagement with all the complexities of what was a soon to become urban site and the architectural issues of a complex brief.

There are five utopias assembled for this project that transform the five responses into a complex emergence that exceeds each of the decisions. An assemblage truly is greater than the sum of its parts.

utopia 1: five towers to accommodate the program
The brief asked for 240,000m2 of office space. Height controls, FAR requirements and a desire for shared views and equity of solar access distributed the towers in a staggered configuration on the site.

At the recommendation of BAU the programs of two of the five towers were changed from working to living. One is an affordable apartment the other is hotel. The three office towers are for lease to established enterprises requiring large areas. All five towers have public programs at both ground level and podium roof level. Entrepreneur networking clubs are located on top floors.

utopia 2: add a podium to provide an urban active edge, deflect downdrafts, provide additional space for the incubator program, and provide a positive street space
However, isolated towers spread over a site 300m long and 130m deep would not provide a positive urban experience for pedestrians, so a three-storey podium of active programs was located over the entire site.

The podium contains the incubator: 92,000 sqm of space dedicated to initiating and growing start-up companies and small enterprises. Legal, financial, constitutional, market research, networking, human resources and a range of other services are being established to guide and nurture. Lecture and exhibition spaces, meeting rooms, public recreation spaces, courtyards, serviced offices, kitchens, and a range of shared, small and medium sized offices and studios are provided. Three spines, two internal and one external, connect spaces along the entire 280m length of the podium. These are informal working and social places. 3D printing technology is the anchor industry for the incubator and has a significant exhibition central to the podium. The podium has a dedicated entrance lobby at ground floor with excalators connecting to all levels.

utopia 3: lift the podium to provide urban permeability to the active commercial programs behind the building
With a vibrant commercial project proposed behind the site and a major urban roadway in front there was strong argument for considerable permeability through the now positive and active podium. Rather than compromise the podiums ability to provide a large flexible continuous program of incubator space, it was decided to lift the podium two storeys of the ground to allow pedestrian access through to the commercial development behind.

utopia 4: add program under the elevated podium to take advantage of through pedestrian access
This now large covered urban space could have program distributed through it making the most of the through traffic being generated between the busy building entrances, the city street and the commercial project. The flows, trajectories and desire lines capture between them a series program bubbles, which became the basis for a landscape design.

Program at this level consists of restaurants and cafes, banks, telecom service centers, medical centres, newsagencies, flower shops, convenience stores, technology exhibition spaces, and a variety of fashion brand outlets managed by the adjacent mall.

utopia 5: place a roof garden on top of the elevated podium because Le Corbusier told us to do so
The roof of the podium was always going to be a roof garden, the only difference now was that it would be at level six, not level four. This roof garden has become one of the largest roof gardens in the world. Seen as a second ground level, the themes of flows, trajectories, desire lines, and resultant bubbles of program became the landscape of the roof garden as well. When viewed from the towers above the roof garden and the ground floor blur into the one surface.

The roof garden program and spaces include a 900m jogging loop; sports areas including both a basketball court and a tennis court; five pavilions for clubs and cafes; spaces in the base of the five towers for restaurants, canteens, a gym, a crèche and clubs; a playground; lawns; numerous shade pavilions with seating and tables for work and leisure; and an events pavilion for 2000 people. The roof bridges to the adjacent shopping mall roof landscape, also designed by BAU, extending the boardwalk jogging loop to 1.2km.

abstract machines
Five clear responses to five specific urban and architectural issues coexist. The difference generating elements of this assemblage have formed an abstract machine that has generated an incredibly clear yet complex assemblage of urban and architectural form, space, order and most importantly city-user experience.

an excessive minimalism
However this project is not just a heterotopia. It also reflects another sensibility that, because of its interest in context, has proven helpful – minimalism. Rather than ask: what are the urban design and architectural issues and how do we squeeze as much expression out of each of them as possible, BAU engaged with all these issues and then asked: what is the least that needs to be done to deal with each of those issues? This project is obviously not an exercise in abstract expressionism, but nor is it a retreat to a single-minded simplicity. It is an embrace of a complex minimalism, an assemblage of minimal responses to a multitude of complex urban and architectural issues and concerns – it could be seen to be the outcome of an excessive minimalism.

2000-2005

Melbourne

Urban Design

Kyneton

Mixed Use

Office

Residential

2015

Culture

Healthcare

Nanjing

Playgrounds

Public

Public Landscapes

Sports

Urban Landscapes

2005-2010

Hotel

Suzhou

Shanghai

Education

2014

Hangzhou

Jiangyin

Structures & Pavillions

Wuxi

Planning

2013

Retail

2012

Fuding

Shaoxing

Chongqing

Hospitality

Kunshan

Office

Wuhan

Hotel

Healthcare

Cixi

Ningbo

Meishan

Canberra

2011

Jingzhou

Private Landscapes

Chengdu

Hospitality

Culture

1990-2000

Xiamen

Residential

Hopetoun

Caofeidian

Huai’an

Xi'an

Xinyu

Mixed Use

Retail

Sports

BAU009 house in the sky

surreal adjacencies:
BAU019 Marymount Residence, Guest Accommodation, Stable + Office

mini-city of culture:
BAU590 Nanjing Pukou Haiqiao Community Service Center

keeping a low profile:
BAU 214 Suzhou Qingshan Hotel Phase I

positive space, human scale, and a blue-green net:
BAU 213-1 Jindi Yunhu Housing

dis-integrated guest houses :
BAU495 Pine Pillow Retreat

don’t look at me, don’t look at me:
BAU436 Nanjing Jiangning Demonstration Kindergarten

new buildings, old topography:
BAU424 Suzhou Qingshan Hotel Phase 2

don’t just re-use the typology, improve it!
BAU310-1 Hangzhou Changbanxiang Housing

defining the perimeter, programming the centre, inhabiting them both:
BAU238 Town Plaza, Xinqiao, Jiangyin

turning outside-in:
BAU199-2 Wuxi Fudi Forte Parktown Sales Pavilion

beyond PODS, networks, and nodes:
BAU552 Chengbei Urban Design project, Nanjing

podium and bill(ding)board:
BAU547 Nanjing Yaxi Town Central Hospital

inner sanctuary, outer crust:
BAU546 Nanjing Gaochun Qiqiao Hospital

an excessive minimalism:
BAU478-A U-Park Incubator, Shang Qing Huai, Nanjing

a plane of reference:
BAU474 Nanjing Zijin Gaochun Science and Technology City

rips in the fabric by place:
BAU461 Nanjing Tangshan Tourist Resort South District

other ideas of hospital:
BAU446 Fuding Hospital

architecture AND terrain:
BAU445 Suzhou Hi-tech District Cultural Center

crust: in-between and on the edge
BAU426 Shaoxing Jianhu Keyan Tourist Resort Planning

eco urbanism:
BAU425 Chongqing Eco Valley City

microcosm:
BAU348 Kunshan Hyper Complex

beyond the picturesque:
BAU347 Kunshan White Pagoda Park

don’t just re-use the typology, improve it!
BAU310 Hangzhou Changbanxiang Housing

building a community not just housing:
BAU302 Shanghai Ludi Baoshan

upside down program – ‘private’ circulation becoming ‘public’ circulation:
BAU254 Shanghai Wai Gao Qiao Culture Centre

extra-large private space as public space:
BAU199 Parktown, Housing, Fudi Forte, Wuxi

mini-me:
BAU197 Jindi Sanlin Pavilion

staggering:
BAU191 Wuhan Cuiwei Housing

urban camouflage:
BAU227 Hangzhou Sports Centre

positive space, human scale, and a blue-green net:
BAU213_1 Jindi Yunhu Housing

the resort at the end of the yellow dirt road:
BAU543 Emerald Village at Soul Bay

critical regionalism and abstraction:
BAU487 Nanjing Yaxi Citta-Slow

hospital for the ill, health care for the healthy, aged care for the elderly: BAU469 Zhaoxiang Hospital

communities as schools and schools as communities:
BAU408 Networks School Zhangjiang

tear open the package: BAU247 Qingpu NGS Supermarket

urban sponge:
BAU324 Cixi Commercial and Culture Center

lyrical islands in pragmatic seas:
BAU530_1 Nanjing Gaochun Su-Wan Interchange Hub

fractured enormity:
BAU281 Chongqing Huarun

ring roads AND peripheral parks:
BAU243 Shanghai Ring Park

simple box OR 3 points in space – you choose:
BAU204-2 Ningbo Wanda Office

many utopias:
BAU129 Xinhu Pearl City Housing Development

a close family:
BAU125 Zhejiang Power Company HQ

stretching, squeezing, bending, trimming:
BAU550 Huanglong Xigu Urban Design

BOTH networks AND objects:
BAU497 Wyndham Cove Eco Sub-urb

ethics, democracy, difference:
BAU470 towards a socially sustainable Canberra

warp and woof:
BAU460 Jingzhou Museum

sustainable technologies for clean living:
BAU396 Nanjing Residential

network of learning:
BAU341 Yushanwan School

not in galleries, but a way of seeing:
BAU338 Jingqiao Ramp Restaurant

shopping sandwich:
BAU321 Jiangyin Wuxing Commercial Centre

celebrating the collective, the intimate, the sustainable, and the local:
BAU312 Suzhou School

21st century Ponte Vecchio:
BAU287 Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bridge

antidote: not another ghetto city:
BAU285 Chengdu North Central

at last …finally …some diversity:
BAU282 Jindi Sanlin Office

recycling and beyond
BAU264 Jiashan Lu Apartment Block

an assemblage of difference:
BAU256 Shanghai Hongqiao Performing Arts Center

streets as shelters, bars as amphitheaters, landscapes as playgrounds:
BAU235 Jinqiao Community Bars

reduce, reuse, recycle:
BAU220 Shanghai Sculpture Space

binary oppositions defining a field of operation – all we wanted was a park:
BAU122 Xiamen International Exhibition Centre

the hotel as microcosm of the city:
BAU018 Marque Hotel

…very strange:
BAU016 Penny Lane

the beautiful and the extraordinary:
BAU013 Hopetoun Bush Resort

a dynamic yet stable vehicle:
BAU510 Suzhou Tram Co. Headquarters

palimpsest:
BAU486A Jiangyin Docklands Park

innovation both inside and out:
BAU433 Zhangjing Nobel Lake Park & Network

exquisite corpse
BAU416 Genetic City Caofeidian

landscape becomes urban design becomes architecture:
BAU390 Duolan Dong Dong Mixed Use Complex

BAU386 Symbiotic City

repetition and difference:
BAU384 Kunshan Pavilions

no longer drowning – waving:
BAU339-2&3 Suzhou Creek Promenade

yet another point of view:
BAU339-1 Suzhou Creek Serpentine Park

ordinary not heroic, symbolic not monumental:
BAU318 Hangzhou Xiaoshan Government Headquarters

woven threads:
BAU234 Jiangyin Arbour Park

private precincts, public networks:
BAU226 Pudong Yangjing

creative networks:
BAU224 Chengdu Fenghuangshan

maximize commuication and cross fertilization:
BAU208 Linping New City Centre

more than just a technopolis:
BAU206 Hangzhou Xiasha New City Centre

a second network embracing history, smalllness, and complexity:
BAU193 Chengdu West New District

a park for everyone and everyone in their park:
BAU189 Hongqiao Park

disorder – not randonmness but beyond order:
BAU182 Chengdu East Village

mosaics of teaching, networks of learning:
BAU149 Huai’an Tertiary Education District

walled cities within a walled city:
BAU147 Xi’an High-Tech Precinct CBD

co-existence without incompatibility:
BAU138 Jiangxi Xinyu Networks City

clarity and unpredictable adjacencies:
BAU119 Jinqiao Sports & Leisure Centre

space-time conflict:
BAU544 Shanghai University Campus

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