maintaining traces of the past
in the eastern suburb memory in chengdu, china, MDO has transformed an old state-run factory into a vivid city hall, maintaining traces and history of the existing building. the design team prioritized a clear transition between old and new, inserting a series of new contrasting elements. dubbed ‘vanke · city growth hall’, the final work has a rather metaphorical language that is spatially imprinted.
the original building founded in 1958, held the hongguang electronic tube factory, which produced once oscilloscopes and kinescopes for the military. the old structure was left to ruin while the other neighboring buildings have become part of a thriving cultural and design hub. as a continuity of the past, the oscilloscope became the design’s starting point, and the ‘burst of energy’ was extracted as the element throughout the project.
the ground floor is designed as a flexible space and pop-up store which connects the branding center to the city
all images courtesy of vincent wu vanke
an interplay between old and new
as described, this ‘explosion of energy’ was seen as the spatial concept of the ‘big bang of knowledge’. the explosion begins in the center of the old structure, while the energy splits to create new spatial forms, which are mapped to all corners of the old factory, interspersing with the historic walls and column networks. in the explosive proliferation of space, technological materials and lights clash and blend with the old factory building, bringing new sensory impact and dramatic feeling to visitors.
these points are all connected by the central staircase, which serves as the social heart. the design team at MDO sought to communicate the idea of a core where different people and functions can meet. based on this strategy, the staircase employs wide steps, allowing informal meeting and relaxation spaces.
a rich sensory experience
the ground floor features a cafe functioning as a public space which blurs the boundary between inside and out. its form is conceived as a layered bamboo box inserted into the grey concrete structure. the layers are folded out to create space for sitting, tables, and serving coffee to the street. along the perimeter takes shape a deep bamboo seat creating a relaxing space inviting passers-by to stop, relax and enjoy a coffee. a large picture window with a sliding glass screen can open up on warmer days, creating a strong visual connection between the city and the interior.
inside, the grey tones of the existing structure are balanced with new elements, a giant digital screen, vertical column batten lighting, and a suspended lighting array that drew inspiration from the line wave of the oscilloscope. the long digital screen acts as a dynamic 3D wall, with its constantly changing appearance to create a fluid and vibrant space.
the artist uses the shades of green and the density of flowers to express the blooming of hibiscus in a day and record the various forms hibiscus by oil painting. after being photographed and re-composited, the huge picture will be printed on tiles.
at night, the screen’s colors can transform the mood and tone of the environment. the space can be converted into a party space, flanked on either side by the coffee store and a DJ station. in this area, the old water tank is molded into a hall of mirrors, providing guests a perfect backdrop for taking photos. moreover, in the exhibition hall, the light and form of the oscilloscope screen are used to define space and form a darkened environment. the light leads the visitor through the exhibition, and the subtly changing light patterns create a rich sensory experience.