There is a cluster of warehouse buildings, which were developed at the beginning of 20th century, facing the Huangpu river near the Yangpu Bridge, to the north of Pudong district in Shanghai. Currently, this whole area is going through the renovation process of turning into a complex of office and commercial spaces. Our plan here was to combine and convert two units of warehouses into a new, tenant office building.
The two units of warehouses, built in 1920, are placed in symmetry with a bridge, staircases and a slope for goods deliveries, in between them. Their original structure was two-storied buildings of RC with walls of piled, bricks. But what we got to see in 2013 was, the walls being pasted with mortar both inside and outside and an unexplainable third floor built on top of the roofs. Our mission was: firstly, to demolish the existing third floor and replace with a new one as a rooftop, communal space for workers in the café and offices, and secondly, to renovate and unify the two units as one combined, working office building.
So to unify the two units to be used as one building, we focused on three main ideas. First of all, bridges connecting the two units were newly installed for each floor, as well as new, shared devices such as staircases and an elevator. Then, a new atrium of a vertical void was placed in the center to create an office space with plenty of natural light and air circulation, as opposed to the original warehouse structure with very little openings. Thirdly, a unifying, architectural design was introduced to the old and the new, namely the existing warehouses and the newly added structures.
Originally, our intention was to restore the walls back to all bricks. But the city of Shanghai officials added a condition for us to preserve the mortar finish on the bricks as a part of the history.
In order to do this, bay window style openings were installed to the new structure on the rooftop, with their glass surfaces extended to the old warehouse walls below. Only behind these glass extensions, the mortar finish was removed, thus exposing the brick walls, and simultaneously preserving the details of the original openings. The huge glass panels extending over three floors are, in fact, creating big showcases, exhibiting the features of two floors of these historic warehouses and the modern architecture on the top floor. Function wise, ventilation openings were installed between the big, floating glass panels and the wall surfaces, adding a finishing touch to this unique “double layer” façade concept, which, we believe, proudly shows the historic walls layered with an impressive modern feature.