Revitalization of Shenyang Dongmaoku / URBANUS
Text description provided by the architects. Dongmaoku, a former warehouse campus in Shenyang, is the PRC’s first generation of logistics facilities built since the Korean War period. With more than 30 individual warehouses, Dongmaoku is of significant value for the study of the typology of logistics buildings in modern China. Although Dongmaoku was listed among the “Valuable Historic Buildings in Shenyang” in 2019, it became a real estate development project in 2020. After the Spring Festival of 2020, the government decided to preserve 7 warehouses in Dongmaoku. URBANUS was invited to give a master plan for the non-housing part of this project. With the completion of the first phase of the Dongmaoku renovation, a new energy scenario has manifested itself in the community. This achievement confirms the importance of five critical paths during the design process in a very short decision time frame.
Critical path I: Amplify the historical heritage by integrating all the resources. Begun after the Spring Festival in 2020, the Dongmaoku project experienced a difficult first step amid the severe pandemic situation. The design team could only get information through photos. In this condition, the first schematic version of the fairgrounds did not include the warehouse. After the lockdown was lifted, following an immediate field visit, the design team were shocked by three impressions from Dongmaoku.
Impression 1: The sense of the whole – the power of integrity.
Impression 2: the sense of volume – the power of the building scale of 30 m by 90 m.
Impression 3: The sense of the interior – the power of natural light from skeleton windows.
After the field visit, the existing warehouses are redesigned to house new public functions. Since this proposal is the reuse of existing buildings and could save a lot of paperwork and construction time, the client ultimately agreed to make this change. Based on this plan, other surrounding public spaces could be seen as the context of the historic buildings. Due to the limited number of warehouses preserved, it makes less sense to only zoom in on the unique value of each building. Our choice is to go for evolution and look at the whole value. Thus, the heart of the design shifted from the one-man exhibition center to a larger-scale urban renewal program. This could not have been achieved without the support of the customer who initially did not intend to outsource all the designs to one company.
On the architectural side, the 30-meter-wide pediment of the warehouse is extracted as a basic motif. Different volumes are generated by the morphology of this pattern to fit into different programs. It is a good way to achieve unity between the new and the old in terms of the mass of the building. At the urban design level, it is important to reshape the old linear industrial model into a new net-shaped model in order to meet the needs of the residential community. With warehouses # 2 and # 4 as a backdrop, two parks with their own characteristics are planned to the south and north.
Critical path II: procedural justice in the conservation of historic buildings. Due to the history of formulating current heritage conservation codes, it is oriented more towards preservation than use, and such an orientation would limit the creative and effective reuse of current buildings. Therefore, the Dongmaoku project not only offers architects but also heritage preservation researchers an opportunity to bring about change. We share a parallel study schedule with the Heritage Conservation Guidelines team led by processor Chen Bochao from Shenyang Jianzhu University. With a common window period, the architects and the researcher could share information and map the design of reuse under the new version codes.
Critical path III: the rebirth of the existing wooden structure. One of the main technical difficulties of the renovation is the dilemma between the reuse of the existing wooden structure and the codes in force. Warehouse # 2 and # 4 wooden truss system was originally designed by Soviet experts with impressive structural beauty. However, if this warehouse is to be transformed into a public gathering space, this wood system no longer meets structural codes. If replaced with larger items, the outlook of the structure would be different. After a concerted effort by the architect and structural engineer, the solution is to implant new steel trusses of similar shapes into the existing timber system, and the timber elements are all unloaded and no longer supporting the weight. of the roof. Thus, the wooden trusses become pure decorative elements rather than being structural elements, which makes sense in the codes of the structure.
Critical path IV: Greenhouse for community manufacturing. The first phase of the renovation project includes warehouses # 2 and # 4, and both consist of three units of 30m * 30m. The architect was only able to make a few changes due to the heritage preservation directive. For the building with a great depth and a small window opening, the skylight is a good solution for daylighting and ventilation. So why not turn it into a greenhouse garden? Thus, a new typology appears: the two warehouses have a spatial sequence with a garden at the beginning. This welcoming green stage would become a good gift for visitors to the cold northern region.
# 2 The warehouse is renovated into a community library. In the age of online reading, the only way to save physical reading is to create an attractive physical atmosphere. The existing space gives a sacred aura to a reading room, and the greenhouse introduces the garden model into the conventional typology of the library.
# 4 The warehouse is renovated into a sales office. The entrance is called “the Garden of Eden”, a discussion space surrounded by tropical plants and bodies of water. However, this space is not reached immediately, as one has to walk through a gallery exhibiting the history of Dongmaoku to the heart of the central hall and then relax in this space.
Critical path V: the spatial justice of urban renewal. Two renovated warehouses are linked together and are transformed into a community center. The common mass continues the abstract geometry of the old roof framing system and defines a romantic entrance like a wedding hall, which showcases the old rustic warehouses. As an urban manifesto, “spatial justice” fights for the equal rights of less powerful groups to use urban public space. Strictly speaking, spatial justice attempts to overcome discrimination between inhabitants of the same residential neighborhoods. We take advantage of high-end development for the benefit of local residents. By transforming this industrial heritage into an urban public resource, different social groups could find their own identification: nostalgia for the elderly, fashion for young people, conviviality for the most modest, appropriate for the wealthy class, etc. This development could be an opportunity to use the new cultural landscape to reduce social differences in order to create an “imaginary community”.
Launched during a period of severe pandemic without access to the site and completed in an intensive period of time, the Dongmaoku project forces us to return to the fundamental logic and to work in a simple way while respecting the current codes of heritage preservation. . It requires logical reasoning to achieve goals by identifying the most important critical paths. Now, the best parts of Dongmaoku rehabilitation are still in progress. Two renovated warehouses helped build public confidence in the project. The old wooden trusses demolished from the other warehouses would be placed on the roof of the new primary school. An example of systematic recycling of ancient history, this design gesture is one of the witnesses to the rebirth of Dongmaoku.