Shanghai’s growth strategy is to go west. Within this growth corridor and at the entrance of a new residential development (see BAU213-1) BAU have been asked to provide two buildings that form a threshold into the housing estate: one, completed earlier (see BAU213-2) is the sales house, now a sports and activity centre with associated retail and services, and a major contributor to the context for this second project – a supermarket with associated specialty shops.
These buildings and their adjacent streets and sidewalks will be the only place in the larger housing project where the opportunity to explore a sense of urban public space and iconography exists.
the sublime and the no longer inadequate
The sports centre is a major landmark building and BAU’s second Klein bottle project – a sublime twisted masonry vessel perforated with openings for light, ventilation and access.
The super-market typology is generally dominated by the sensibility of the sub-urban shopping mall, a big-box surrounded by car parking. The type generally lacks human scale, activity around the edge, and any hint of what is happening in the interior.
More recently, with commercial city centres now encouraging mixed use, sites can range from, those hiding behind active commercial streets to those (as in this instance)n taking pride of place at the entrance to a community. These circumstances make it obvious how inadequate the sub-urban type is when brought into the city.
To rectify the inadequacies of the sub-urban type this particular big-box building must respond to two major urban design opportunities: firstly, to work with the Klein bottle sports centre to create a place where the residents will want to come together and engage with each other. Secondly, to provide architecture that engages with the larger scale of the city – in this instance the major highway to north of the project.
Despite being programmatically and formally opposites, BAU believed that a series of urban design strategies would ensure a resonance between these buildings that would form a public realm bigger than the sum of the parts.
Consequently, these two buildings are clad with the same material – a brick tile; the street between the buildings has been treated as a shared space (cars and pedestrians) with large areas of footpath paving and textures taking over the bitumen road way; the building edges facing the street are filed with human scaled retail and service activity; there are awnings to provide shelter in summer and winter; the northern edges of both buildings facing the major city bound highway are treated in the same way – more a market than a super-market.
This resonance also allows these two buildings to become a more complex single gesture at a larger city scale, able to be read from the speeding cars on the highway.
mass as a dynamic assemblage
While the sports centre explores the geometry of dynamic systems and the idea of continuity, the supermarket explores the systemization of a static geometry and the ideas of assemblage and repetition.
The supermarket looks like a collection of slightly mis-stacked shipping containers, packing cases or boxes. The big-box of the super market has been broken into what appears to be a series of small-boxes clad in brick tiles, ranging in colour from orange to red-clay to terracotta. This articulation is achieved by expressing slab edges as black recesses of constant height, windows as black recesses of varying widths, and entrances and service cores as black recesses, wider than the windows.
While mass may be one of the oldest and best understood building tectonics for architects, this mass has been broken into an assemblage of smaller repetitive elements in a seemingly random way that energizes the façades.
no longer but not only
This mundane program has been transformed into a gesture that has public grandeur, looking more like an art gallery or museum or an archive building protecting state treasures, than a supermarket displaying commercial products. This supermarket is no longer ugly and ordinary but not only beautiful and heroic.