The idea behind the project, i.e. a commercial area whose structure is based on a strictly introverted logic, places the inner road at the top of the hierarchy of spaces, primarily as a space which is crossed not only along the direction of its linear development but also (and especially) transversally. It refers to a model of ancient city, where the layout of the streets is not the result of infrastructural matters but rather of the stratification of the urban fabric over the years, as well as the need to move but also stop, gather people together and socialise.
The retail park commissioned by HNA Group includes a wide range of functions. These are combined in order to obtain an innovative mix that targets the growing medium class lifestyle of Chinese metropolis. The overall masterplan is divided in blocks with different functions. Four central blocks are dedicated to food and beverage tenants. Six components are designed for exhibition-retail in order to develop this recently explored formula that conjugates shopping and entertainment. Other six blocks are for traditional form of retailers and cinema, and two blocks on the east are designed as waterpark dome and a fast-hotel building.
The settlement is based on a double relation. On one side the project is located in a fast-growing suburban context that will maintain this condition in the future. On the other side the building has to fulfil its landmark retail function, while keeping its relation with the surroundings. Formally, the design concept takes shape in an extremely essential approach on the exterior façades and in a careful study of proportions of the inner streets and of the spaces overlooking them. A refined floor plan layout results in a featuring shaded and roofed public street which is not only a means of connection but also a series of spaces and stages of a non-linear path.
This also can be read as a sequence of sensitive spaces giving value to the sales function through the architecture. From outside the retail complex appears like a series of large blocks settled and shaped with different angles. The buildings are cladded with a uniform material, without any variation of texture or color. For this reason the design implements the use of concrete panels of large size and a diverse range of dimensions. This solution meets a reasonable budget and emphasizes the large built masses with a proportioned sizing and the consistency of the material. At the same time, at a smaller scale, the different cut of the panels and the deep gaps enrich the design of the façade.
Horizontal cuts relate and integrate the different heights of blocks and entrances, while the vertical gaps turn the blocks lighter and dynamic. The advertising strategy is integrated in the design through the use of large volumes that refer to a visual relation with the streets and the highway for their size and position. For this reason the cladding of these elements are designed with dark aluminium louvers, making them standing out from the overall plain concrete shell of the buildings. This material is also used to emphasize some special functional component, such as the emerging part of the basement, the water dome and the hotel.
The variety of the volumes is furthermore increased by the idea of a semi-underground basement that links the parking function with the surroundings. This part of the building creates a void area at the bottom of all the buildings. In this way the architecture subtly splits its physical link with the soil (as it was floating) and emphasizes its dynamic shapes. Vertical elements mark the entrances to the district and the building blocks slide to settle and generate the inner circulation paths. The subtle design variations of the façades emphasize the relation between inside and outside. This gradual approach leads the visitors from their arrival to the internal retail street and the upper floors.
The dynamic sequence is composed by three layers of space: the outside layer (the façade), the inside layer (the inner street) and the middle layer. This consists of the roofed system of streets and squares that blends the inner retail area with the public outer space. The internal main shopping street is marked by a range of diverse bridges that connect the upper floor galleries. Here the indoor natural light is provided by a shaded glass roof that becomes the consistent central feature of the district. In the central roofed square the theme of cladding continuity remain consistent, folding consistently from the outer walls.
The overall simple volumetric composition keeps as well his role in the space composition. Internally the façade of the buildings are more articulated and the interior design themes are anticipated in the square. Large openings are featuring the buildings together with the shaded glass roof. A loop of bridges is designed at the first floor in order to connect the four food and beverage components that are all facing the central entrance square. As soon as people cross the fully glazed entrance walls, placed on the east and west side of the main square, they enter in the main enclosed commercial street.
Along the path a series of larger and narrower spaces create a diverse circulation layout. At the all the levels retail windows and entrances to the main functions are facing to the main street. Four secondary squares are designed along the path to gather people and organize temporary events or exhibitions. This strategy emphasizes the entrance of the main retailers and exhibition area and arranges the smaller units along the street. At ground floor the large promenade is dotted with a series of gardens popping out from the basement level, creating a visual interaction between the underground parking and the interior spaces.
Upper floors are accessible through a diverse system of escalators and they are connected through bridges. These are differently oriented in order to enrich the visitors’ spatial experience creating various points of view. These elements, including larger balconies, are all facing the public central promenade in order to keep a consistent visual relation between all the spaces. The formal result is a building with a simple and sleek design that is clearly related with its function. The design is conceived to relate both to the landmark and the human scale of the visitors, with a clear and consistent interconnection of the public spaces. Source by Draftarch.
Location: Tianjin, China
Contruction design: China Building Technique Group
Client: HNA Group
Area: plot area 196.421 sqm, built area 423.126 sqm
Maximum height: 28 m
Year: design schedule 2014 – 2015, construction schedule 2015 – 2017
Images: Courtesy of Draftarch