At beginning of 2011, Kokaistudios was invited by one of the leading developers in China, OCT Land Shanghai, to lead a thorough restoration and renovation project of a historically significant warehouse on the North side of Suzhou Creek in Shanghai. The warehouse; the early 20th Century Ewo Packing Factory warehouse building; is the first building to open in the new large scale OCT urban re-development project SUHE CREEK designed by Foster+Partners and where the 4th Bvlgari Hotel will be located. The building now serves initially as the Project Showroom, Sales Center and VIP Reception Venue as well as housing the studios for two of China’s most prominent contemporary artists, Yan Peiming and Liu Xiaodong. It will be part of the riverside commercial space where international brands will be located in the future.
The accurate survey of the building provided the necessary insight of all the elements contributing to the building’s original character and their different state of conservation. The original structure, for instance, cast iron and wooden pillars, with wood slabs and trusses, proved in good condition and worth preserving. The upper two floors of the original brick façade, characterized by their sober decorations and moldings, also emerged in good conditions under the thick ‘skin’ of plaster and paint applied in layers during previous interventions. Irreversibly damaged and lost, instead, was the ground floor, where the original portals and windows were ravaged in the recent decades, when the building was converted and used as a supermarket.
This loss offered the opportunity for a more contemporary intervention: the original sequence of openings was reestablished using new materials; aluminum framed double glazed windows, a language clearly non mimetic so as to bring the building to its original integrity without altering the clear distinction between original pre-existing design and the new Kokaistudios design.
The principle to clearly define new and old elements in a project carries as well into the interior spaces where renovated original elements meld harmoniously with new features and materials; complementing each other in a clearly distinguishable way. In keeping with Kokaistudios previous award winning renovation projects; all efforts were taken to ensure that the implementation of all necessary M&E systems required to meet modern uses and codes was done with the dual focus of limiting any impact on the original structure and decorations and also to minimize the visual impact.
The client requirement for different areas to meet various functional needs as well as to plan for a future use with other tenants drove Kokai to create a largely open plan design that valorizes the heritage and original beauty of the building.
The finished building strikes a balance between respectful renovation and the needs of the developer and it acts as the flagship for the new SUHE CREEK project; an exceptional multi-use development that will contain retail, residential, commercial, hotel and leisure components. The building stands as a symbol of the re-development of this historical district of Shanghai; and a re-affirmation of Kokaistudios’ belief that historical buildings play a critical role in the urban fabric of great cities.
Conveniently located only 10 minutes from the Bund and Xintiandi areas, the SUHE CREEK development area is poised to become a major new destination in Shanghai brining new vitality and energy to the historical downtown district.