don’t just re-use the typology, improve it!
In 2011 the Kunlun development group staged an invited competition for the design of 300 luxury apartments. The site is a few kilometres north of Hangzhou’s old city centre in a predominantly residential district of increasingly high-density development.
This project’s design strategy is to not just re-use a well-worn Chinese housing typology, but to improve it through innovation. This is done through four subtle interventions.
towards a network of green open space
Open space for this project is not just the anti-space left over after the housing slabs have been located. This project sees open space as a positive opportunity to link and grow a green public open space network that will ultimately provide a more pedestrian friendly circulation route throughout the city. Consequently, a large central green loop both visually and physically connects to the small public park to the east of the site.
This green loop is then activated by series of programmatic, formal and spatial innovations.
A club with sports facilities and dining space is inserted under the garden; with sunken courts providing natural light, views and outdoor access. An active edge of shops and cafes is located on the ground floor along the only street edge.
The massing of this commercial edge is fragmented to ensure a highly detailed human scale beneath the towering slabs.
Like Le Corbusier, the forms of the slabs are lifted off the ground and sit on piloti, but unlike Le Corbusier this is not to allow the universal anti-space of the larger site to flow under the building – it is to allow the insertion of a smaller scale positive space.
hierarchies of space
BAU’s competition design included partially walled entrance courtyards at the base of each slab. Like the front garden of detached villas, these courts provided an intimate in-between open space, a semi-private/semi-public space that creates a human scaled interface between the private apartments and the large-scale public open space between the slabs. (Unfortunately, these courts were not included in the built project).
The entrance lobby of each tower is three floors (12 metres) high, connecting the two underground parking levels with ground level and providing natural light and aiding orientation. A simple but effective strategy to integrate the otherwise dark and claustrophobic basement levels with the activity associated with the entrances of the buildings, the courtyards, and the green loop beyond.
Within the narrow confines of Chinese speculative housing, this project seeks to create a project, which is culturally relevant, socially and environmentally sustainable, and cost effective. It does so by demonstrating a thorough understanding of Chinese housing typologies together with a desire or sense of obligation to improve these typologies every time they are used.