A New Concept in a New Dress: Renovation of a Shanghai Office Building
Builder: CaoHeJing High Tech Park
Architects: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Location: CHN–Schanghai, CaoHeJing High Tech Park
Southeast of the city centre in the Caohejing Hi-Tech Park, the architects have transformed ordinary offices into a hub with a co-working space for new entrepreneurs and a contemporary, modern place for young businesspeople. The office concept, called »Incubator« by the architects, is a pilot project which promotes and supports local businesses by providing communal, inexpensive office space. Rather than the usual poorly lit offices, table groupings designed for flexible use now embody the changes in the industry. The architects worked according to the principle of addition and subtraction. While a light, newly added metal façade drapes the stark building with an undulating dress, the removal of some ceilings and addition of an interior atrium have given the structure better lighting and visual references. This means that the floor plans have lost some of their depth, allowing for more light to enter from all sides. All the storeys and work areas are easier to see across all levels, enhancing the sense of community. The atrium is the new heart of the entire project. Newly added public accesses with areas to relax, converse and enjoy a cup of coffee create opportunities for collaboration and convening. Other features such as transparent, in part constructively suspended »meeting boxes« offer more peace and privacy. Green terraces serve as rest areas and refer to the outdoor space.
The façade concept creates a restrained, clear appearance. Perforated aluminum panelling gives the heavy building a light structure. At the same time, the façade openings that have been preserved show themselves discreetly behind the metal surface. The perforated sheeting functions as sun protection and offers every work area the necessary shade while allowing both a view and daylight. Thanks to the new façade, the new service areas have deliberately been set into the background and shielded from everyday view. The result is a new image of the existing building without having introduced any fundamental changes.
In China, renovating rather than building from scratch is still a rare phenomenon. This makes it all the more fascinating that the architects have created a building with an assertive appearance and well-functioning spaces from an ordinary, aging office complex. With their innovative concept, they have designed a centre for entrepreneurs which is open and bright. Throughout the project, they concentrated on optimizing and refining the existing structure. Moreover, they avoided any demolition work or expensive new planning.