Onexn Architects have managed to refurbish a strategically located run-down old building in Shenzhen in a way that a creative renovation can generate sustainable and visually appealing design solutions.
The Mountain View project was short-listed for a 2021 International Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
Natural and serene surroundings
Situated beside Yanhan Mountain, the building is very close to nature and not far away from the city as well. It boasts tranquil natural surroundings and faces multiple building clusters and public spaces of OCT LOFT, Shenzhen.
The client’s design brief didn’t specify a clear direction for the renovation of the dilapidated building, so the architects had to identify the most appropriate solution among various possibilities.
In the bustling concrete jungle, nature is very precious. The original building is dilapidated, contrasting yet integrating with lush greenery around it. Through prudent design intervention, the architects intended to establish a new dialogue between nature and the building, and create experiences that are relevant to daily life.
The building consists of 5 floors. It adjoins a dormitory building and a court on the east and south sides and nestles under Yanhan Mountain on the north and west sides.
Before the renovation, the first floor of the building was still in use, while the stories above were in disrepair and leaky. However, both the client and Onexn Architects saw new possibilities, hoping to bring people back to the building and feel the unique beauty of nature.
Combination of art and commerce
The project is situated within OCT LOFT, a creative and cultural park that has accumulated rich cultural resources over the years. Based on the surrounding business environment, the client hoped that commercial operations in the building emphasize nature, integration, rarity, and complementarity.
After investigation and research, the architects decided to carry out transformation and renovation based on three key points: a combination of art and commerce, the complementarity of catering space and workspace, and branding-oriented spatial operation.
Through renovating and repurposing the building, the architects aimed to create a distinctive and mix-used cultural complex, which integrates diversified functional spaces such as store, restaurant, art gallery, theater, workspace, etc.
The team incorporated a series of new business modes into the architectural space, to reorganize and activate the old property, blend it with surrounding fabric, and create a new artistic destination for the city.
Iconic facades that blend into nature
New facades were naturally formed through enriching and integrating architectural spaces. The architects hoped that visitors would be touched by nature and stimulated to interact with the building. The east facade is partially hidden in nature.
The original entrance of 1F is not used as the main entrance of the building, since the lease of the existing canteen on this floor hasn’t expired yet. Instead, the architects made use of the height difference of the site and set the main entrance beside the west square, which can be reached by pedestrians and vehicles along a slope. Trees reveal a corner of the slope.
The boundary of the slope is defined by weathering steel screens, which help guide visitors to stroll upwards and reach the main entrance. Standing on the small yet open square in front of the main entrance, visitors can have a panoramic view of west and south facades of the building. The architects tried to create a holistic building surface.
The whole architecture is like a hill, with stacked volumes extending to the sky and Yanhan Mountain. The terrace above the main entrance is connected with a black spiral staircase that leads to 4F and 5F. Diversified structural blocks and distinct material textures complement each other, together producing an iconic facade.
Multiple functions and diversified spaces
How to organize diversified functional areas in a reasonable manner and even leave space for future functional adjustment was a primary consideration. 2F is a vigorous space for pop-up markets and exhibitions, while 3F mainly functions as a workspace. Restaurant, art gallery, and theater are set on 4F and 5F. The fourth floor is the most complex space, which accommodates an urban exhibition hall, a bookstore, a gallery space, and a theater entrance, etc. 4F – Urban Exhibition Hall As the elevator reaches 4F, the urban exhibition hall will first come into view.
The architects took advantage of the 1.2-meter height difference within the space and created an experiential exhibition space where visitors can wander around. After completion of the renovation, they curated an exhibition themed on ‘Concept of Dialogue’ in this exhibition hall, which displayed the whole process of the project, from preliminary discussion to construction.
Staircase renovation (2F-4F)
The staircase stretches from 2F to 4F, forming an atrium space. Natural light penetrates and filters into the atrium. The staircase is the main traffic node within the architectural space, and at the same time provides a venue for resting and salon activities.
4F – Bookstore; The bookstore is set around the skylight and beside the stairwell. The skylight and large areas of glass bring daylight and outdoor greenery into the space, thereby enhancing fusion and interaction between the interior and outside.
4F – Art gallery; Opposite the bookstore is an art gallery, where Onexn Architects retained an existing structural column. The exposed reinforced concrete column contrasts with clean and smooth new walls, hence generating a dialogue between the old and new.
Besides, it also functions as a clue to the art gallery, where original architectural structures were completely preserved. The existing grid of beams helped form a column-free gallery space. The ceiling shows a strong sense of order and is highlighted by light, which generates a bright and aesthetic environment.
The theater occupies the east side of 3F and 4F. The architects created several setbacks outside theater space, to form a double-height veranda, which guides people to enter the interior and allows them to enjoy and interact with greenery, sunshine, and nature.
This veranda blurs the boundary between the architecture and the surrounding environment. Steel columns at the corridor area are arranged in a row, which echoes flourishing plants nearby. Another entrance of the theater is set on 3F, which is flat and barrier-free. The restaurant sits on the top floor.
Functional spaces including private dining rooms and kitchen are folded out around the central courtyard and based on the external environment. The architects rotated those volumes and carved out the rooftops, to establish a relatively close relationship between the interior and nature. Each room has a triangular balcony, which helps enhance interaction with nature.
Around the central courtyard is an open-air veranda, which not only links different areas but also blends the space into nature. The veranda is supported by rectangular steel pillars, which are arranged in a matrix, endowing the space with a sense of lightness and order. The restaurant floor is covered by various materials including greenery, pebbles, corrosion-resistant wooden panels, and cement, to demarcate different functional spaces.
Project: The Mountain View
Architects: Onexn Architects
Client: Black Arc Digital Media Co., Ltd.
Contractor: Zhongfu Construction Co., Ltd.
Photographers: Zhang Chao, Onexn Architects