Old Factories Get New Wrapping in Shanghai

May 15, 2012

By Clare Jacobson

Office building for Material ConneXion
Image courtesy dEEP Architects

Beijing-based dEEP Architects has transformed a pair of old factories into an office building for Material ConneXion.


Office building for Material ConneXion
Image courtesy dEEP Architects
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Beijing-based dEEP Architects has transformed a pair of old factories into an office building for Material ConneXion, a company that provides information on building materials. The architects renovated and connected the abandoned factory buildings in the Jiading district of Shanghai, wrapping them with a new aluminum envelope.“We kept intact the historical presence of the architecture," says principal Li Dao de, "and infused new surface treatments as a way to say, ‘Here’s 1950. Welcome to 2012.’”

Talking about the project, Li explains the contrast between old and new, noting the simple, rectilinear components of the factories compared to the angular forms of the addition. “While the old factories are composed of vertical and horizontal planes, our surface  has a multitude of juxtaposed angles. The old buildings followed industrial standards of the time and used simple construction.  Our building  offered the district a chance to showcase what it means to be a designer—throwing away the old standards and looking to interdisciplinary sources such as art, music, and nature,” states Li.

“Throwing away the old standards” began with 21st-century 3D modeling tools, instead of 1950s sketches. dEEP then adjusted its model to the site. Because the factory buildings could not support any new weight, the addition needed to be almost freestanding, resting only on itself and the new connector—a steel bridge with an open stairway—between the factories. The architects also adjusted their design to position the aluminum panels comprising the new building’s skin to catch daylight. “When the sun moves, the building changes color,” says Li.Apertures of various sizes puncture the skin's triangular metal panes. “The patterning of the building’s skin comes from looking at nature and how it creates gradients of articulation,” explains the architect.

Before opening his office in Beijing in 2008, Li spent time in London, studying at the Architectural Association and then working for Norman Foster. dEEP’s previous work includes the Beijing offices for Eegoo Cultural Industry Investment Co., which is Material ConneXion’s strategic partner in China. The cell-shaped rooms and plastic, curvilinear forms of the Beijing offices contrast with the sharp angles of the Shanghai building.

The Shanghai building houses exhibition space, a café, offices, and a 500-materials library for Material ConneXion. It also serves as the cornerstone of a creative park for Eegoo, which includes an art center, showroom, cinema, and a few small office buildings.

Material ConneXion plans to open eight more locations in China by 2015. According to George M. Beylerian, the company's founder, “The future of innovation relies on Chinese resources and potential.”

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