MVRDV designs a sustainable urban living room for Shenzhen

March 27, 2020 by  
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Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has unveiled its competition-winning designs for the Shimao ShenKong International Centre, a new “three-dimensional urban living room” for the heart of Shenzhen’s Longgang district. Selected from nearly 30 competition entries, the winning proposal, also known as the Shenzhen Terraces, will introduce over 20 programs to a thriving university neighborhood. The project also focuses on sustainability and will integrate passive design principles, native landscaping, recycled materials and solar panels.  Named after its architecture of stacked plateaus, the Shenzhen Terraces project references forms of the nearby mountains while its predominately horizontal lines and curvaceous shapes provide a visual contrast with the vertical lines and hard edges of the surrounding high-rises. The terraced design also creates opportunities for large overhangs to mitigate solar gain as well as spacious terraces filled with plants and water basins for cooling microclimates . Bridge elements link various buildings to create a continuous elevated route.  Related: ZHA unveils LEED Gold-targeted OPPO headquarters in Shenzhen “ Shenzhen has developed so quickly since its origins in the 1970s,” said Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “In cities like this, it is essential to carefully consider how public spaces and natural landscape can be integrated into the densifying cityscape. The urban living room of the Shimao ShenKong International Centre will be a wonderful example of this, and could become a model for the creation of key public spaces in New Town developments throughout Shenzhen. It aims to make an area that you want be outside, hang out and meet, even when it is hot — a literally cool space for the university district, where all communication space can be outside. It will truly be a public building.” As a sustainable hub, the 101,300-square-meter Shenzhen Terraces will be home to a pedestrian-friendly landscape, a bus terminal and a mixture of functions — such as an art gallery, library, conference center and outdoor theater — conveniently placed near high-rise housing, commercial complexes and educational facilities. The landscaping, designed in collaboration with Openfabric, will mimic the curvaceous architecture and will feature native sub-tropical plants and recreation zones.  + MVRDV Images by Atchain via MVRDV

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MVRDV designs a sustainable urban living room for Shenzhen

An old mall becomes an urban lagoon and public square in central Tainan

March 18, 2020 by  
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In downtown Tainan, Taiwan, MVRDV has transformed a former shopping mall into the Tainan Spring, an urban lagoon and park. Commissioned by the city government as part of an urban revitalization masterplan, the adaptive reuse project not only provides a new public space that reconnects residents with nature, but also sets an inspiring example for how defunct malls can be given new, sustainable lives. Created as part of a masterplan to rejuvenate a “T-Axis” to the East of the Tainan Canal, the Tainan Spring project includes the transformation of the former China Town Mall as well as the beautification of a kilometer-long stretch of the city’s Haian Road, now redesigned to reduce traffic and improve pedestrian access . In replacing the old mall, the architects have “meticulously recycled” the building and turned the mall’s underground parking level into a sunken public plaza with an urban pool, planting beds, playgrounds, gathering spaces and a stage for performances. A glass floor exposes part of the structure of the second basement level below to connect visitors to the history of the site.  Related: MVRDV-designed market in Taiwan will grow food on a massive green roof “In Tainan Spring, people can bathe in the overgrown remains of a shopping mall. Children will soon be swimming in the ruins of the past — how fantastic is that?” said Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “Inspired by the history of the city, both the original jungle and the water were important sources of inspiration. Tainan is a very grey city. With the reintroduction of the jungle to every place that was possible, the city is reintegrating into the surrounding landscape. That the reintroduction of greenery was an important thread in our master plan can be seen in the planting areas on Haian Road. We mixed local plant species so that they mimic the natural landscape east of Tainan. I think the city will benefit greatly from this.” In two to three years, the newly planted beds will grow into a lush garden comprising native trees, shrubs and grasses to form a tropical jungle-like environment that will help offset the urban heat island effect . Visitors can also find relief from Tainan’s tropical climate in the urban pool and mist sprayers in the summer. The pool’s water level will rise and fall in response to the rainy and dry seasons.  + MVRDV Photography by Daria Scagliola via MVRDV

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An old mall becomes an urban lagoon and public square in central Tainan

CRA proposes reconfigurable roads and a floating garden to revitalize Luganos waterfront

January 21, 2020 by  
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Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and Mobility in Chain (MiC) have unveiled a technologically savvy plan to better connect the Swiss city of Lugano with the beautiful Lugano Lake. Informed by studies on mobile and traffic data, the proposed regeneration of the waterfront will introduce dynamic public spaces that can take over parts of the roads, which can be reconfigured with zero, one or two lanes at different times of the day. This new, reconfigurable road system would be combined with smart signage, responsible street furniture and even renewable energy-generating infrastructure to facilitate a greener and more pedestrian-friendly environment. Currently, Lugano suffers from a disconnect to its lake due to a busy thoroughfare along the waterfront. To visually and physically provide pedestrians with better connections to the lake, the architects propose overhauling this main traffic artery with the addition of a dynamic road system that can turn sections of the street into pedestrian-only public spaces, such as playgrounds, a basketball court or other social gathering areas. At the same time, the intervention aims to preserve the historical value of the lakefront as designed by Pasquale Lucchini in 1863. Related: CRA grows a sustainable pavilion out of mushrooms in just 6 weeks The architects have also proposed a floating, rotating island for the lake that would be accessible to the public via a series of boardwalks. A garden would be planted on the floating island to highlight and preserve the biodiversity and native flora of Lake Lugano. The dynamic waterfront would also includes smart signage, responsive street furniture, heat-absorbing renewable energy technology and a series of mobility hubs that promote shared transit. “Lugano is committed in redesigning the front lake and the city center for the future citizens, focusing on a growing attention to dynamic public spaces , the coexistence of different mobility vectors, the development of green areas, the role of the water in city life, the impact of the landscape and much more,” said Marco Borradori, mayor of Lugano. “The path began in 2018, when the municipality went public with its vision and objectives, identifying innovation as one of the key points for urban development. The next step will hopefully be an open competition to create a new masterplan for the city of tomorrow. Our wish is that the vision could soon take the form of a realized project.” + Carlo Ratti Associati Images via Carlo Ratti Associati

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CRA proposes reconfigurable roads and a floating garden to revitalize Luganos waterfront

Fuksas designs a zero-impact public square in the heart of Sofia

December 13, 2019 by  
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Italian design firm Studio Fuksas has recently revealed designs for the new Sveta Nedelya Square, a “ zero-impact ” public space in the heart of Sofia, Bulgaria. Located in front of the medieval Sveta Nedelya Church, the project will bridge the city’s ancient roots and modern urbanism with a contemporary design that shows off the city’s historic architecture. As a beacon for sustainability, the square will feature transparent solar panels atop a “hi-tech canopy” of pavement modules and a rainwater collection system. Billed by the architects as “a key intervention for the entire nation,” the new Sveta Nedelya Square will represent the country’s forward-looking ambitions while paying homage to its cultural roots. “Our aim is to reduce the dichotomy between the ancient and contemporary city,” the firm explained in a project statement. “We started our design from the Roman framework, using the Cardo and Decumanus to extrapolate the square module, a pure geometric shape.” Related: Studio Fuksas completes Rome’s largest building in over 50 years Spanning an area of 34,000 square meters, the new Sveta Nedelya Square will be bisected by a tram line into two parts: a public park and a paved square. The design also proposes turning parts of the surrounding roads — the Kyaginya Maria Luiza Boulevard, Aleksander Stamboliyski Boulevard, Vitosha Boulevard and the Saborna Ulitsa — into pedestrian-only avenues. Visitors will be able to enjoy views of the ancient Roman cardo covered by protective panels of glass that can be walked on. Select pavement modules will be elevated to create a series of sculptural, vertical elements that form a forest-like covering, which will provide shade and will recall the shape of a rose, Bulgaria’s national flower. The curved shapes of the vertical elements also reference the northern and southern porticoed facades of the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral. The pavement modules are built with transparent solar panels that harness renewable energy, which is used to light up the square at night. The new Sveta Nedelya Square is expected to break ground in 2021, with completion slated for 2023. + Studio Fuksas Images via Studio Fuksas

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Fuksas designs a zero-impact public square in the heart of Sofia

Community-oriented housing redefines a former industrial site in west London

November 15, 2019 by  
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London-based architectural firm Mæ has completed the second phase of Brentford Lock West, a urban regeneration masterplan that is providing quality homes — 40 percent of which are designated for shared ownership — designed to engage the waterfront environment and community. Taking inspiration from the site’s industrial past, the architecture complements its historic setting with distinctive sawtooth roofs that help funnel light into the buildings and the material palette of blond brick, in-situ concrete and reconstituted stone. In addition to designing for optimal daylighting, the architects have included mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems and high levels of thermal insulation to ensure energy efficiency . Completed at the end of 2018, the second phase of Brentford Lock West introduces an additional 157 homes to the mixed-use masterplan and includes a combination of lateral apartments, duplexes, penthouses and townhouses. All homes are “step-free” and follow the Lifetime Home Standard , a set of design principles that emphasize inclusivity, accessibility, adaptability, sustainability and good value. Each home is carefully oriented to maximize privacy as well as views, whether of the canal to the north or the city to the south. Related: RRA unveils mountain-inspired ski resort that emphasizes nature and community In designing the development, the architects worked with the local community and other stakeholders. As a result, community values have been embedded into the design of Brentford Lock West. One such example is the new “neighborhood street” — a shared space for pedestrians and cyclists that is landscaped and paved with herringbone brick — that knits the two phases together. Also at the heart of the development is a landscaped communal garden. Large cantilevered balconies engage the street below. “Continuing the architectural language of phase one, the second phase builds upon scale and massing, alongside the benchmark it set in terms of quality and sense of place,” the architecture firm added. “Holding the corners of each plot, six pavilion buildings are linked through rows of private townhouses and bridge structures that form entrance portals and house further accommodation above.” + Mæ Images via Goodfellow Communications

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Deciphering wine labels: the differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines

November 15, 2019 by  
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‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations, cocktail parties and family gatherings. But before you pop the corks on those bottles of wine, take a moment to understand what you are about to drink. If you are hoping to serve wine made with sustainably grown, organic grapes , read the label carefully before committing to the purchase, or you might not be getting what you expect. With words like “natural,” “organic,” “biodynamic” and “sustainable,” it can be hard to decipher which wine is truly best for the planet. Here are some tips to understand sustainable wine labels. Marketing is a powerful tool, and companies will advertise characteristics of their wines that they think will appeal to the consumer. However, the terminology can be so confusing that a winery might misguide you without meaning to. Some words are so similar that you (and they) might even assume they all mean the same thing. Related: This is how climate change will impact wine Fortunately, steps have been taken to standardize the verbiage on these labels so you can better understand what’s in the bottle. But there is still variation throughout the food and beverage industry, especially for wine. Here is the terminology you are likely to see and exactly what it all means for the wines you imbibe. Organic or 100 percent organic wine In the U.S., the term organic is regulated and must fit into specific criteria. However, even within that criteria, you will find different wording. For example, wines made from organically grown grapes are grown without the use of pesticides , fungicides, herbicides, etc., and these wines do not contain sulfites added during wine production. (Organic wines do contain naturally occurring sulfites.) Note that the standards for “organic” classifications in Canada and Europe allow for a small amount of sulfites to be used during production. Biodynamic wine Biodynamic wines are organic, and these wines also follow farming ideologies dating back to the 1920s, when Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and academic, presented scientific support showing that in order for a grape to reach its potential, the entire vineyard must be taken into account. In addition to growing grapes without chemicals or common additions such as yeast, the lunar and astrological cycles are often considered when making decisions about the health of the vineyard . These wines are also produced without interference to adjust for acidity. For example, instead of making changes during fermentation and flavor development, the focus is on healthy roots, soil and the atmosphere of the vineyard as a whole. Like the term “organic,” “biodynamic” wines have earned certification by meeting specific requirements. The governing board that approves the label is the Demeter Association, a branch of an organization dating back to 1928 during Steiner’s efforts to bring societal awareness about biodynamics in agriculture. Sustainable wine This label is fairly subjective and typically refers to the way the vineyard is managed more than the way the wine is produced. A vineyard (or farm) that aims to grow crops sustainably is concerned with the impact on the planet. This means using natural methods of balancing the soil, such as crop rotation. It can also mean using energy or water-saving practices . If your wine is made “sustainably,” it likely means it was made organically in accordance with the typical goals of sustainable farming, but don’t assume it’s organic without the label identifying it as such. Natural, all-natural or 100 percent natural wine When you see the word “natural” on a label, be aware that there are limited regulations surrounding the use of this term. There is no distinction between “natural,” “all-natural” or “100 percent natural.” Manufacturers of all types of food can slap this wording on labels. But most producers in the wine industry see the “natural” classification differently. For wine-making, a natural wine is the result of a natural process, meaning that process involves as little intervention as possible throughout the stages. In other words, the wine is fermented grapes in their most natural form. That means that a natural wine is organic and sometimes biodynamic, but organic and biodynamic wines are not always natural. Furthermore, any of these wines may or may not be sustainably produced. Because there is no oversight committee for a “natural” label, selecting a wine is all about getting to know the winemaker and asking questions at the tasting room. If you live in a wine region, buy locally so you can see the vineyard and know the source of your bottle. If you don’t live near a winery, do you research online. Most wineries are proud to share their growing practices and provide transparency if they are using sustainable, organic, natural or biodynamic methods. Via Wine Spectator , Eating Well and The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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Deciphering wine labels: the differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines

Lemay injects new life into Montreals Expo 67 site

November 7, 2019 by  
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Canadian multidisciplinary design firm Lemay recently revitalized a core area on the site of Expo 67, the 1967 International and Universal Exposition that was held in Montreal and is considered the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century. The $60 million project, which concluded earlier this summer, was carried out as part of the City of Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017. Spanning an area of approximately 35 acres, the redevelopment project known as the new Espace 67 enhances the visitor experience with the addition of new wayfinding elements, a multipurpose amphitheater, an Event Village, a Natural Agora and a variety of service pavilions. Held for six months in Montreal in 1967, the Expo 67 hosted a record-breaking number of World’s Fair visitors and attracted 62 nation participants. After its end, the site preserved a collection of international pavilions known as “Man and His World” located on two islands: Saint Helen’s Island and the human-made Notre Dame Island on the St. Lawrence River. Using an integrated design approach, Lemay has enhanced the pedestrian experience that begins from the metro with new service pavilions and leads to the site that connects the islands’ north and south shores. Related: An old warehouse is rehabbed into chic apartments in Montreal “Lemay’s concept blends the enchanting natural setting and rich historic past of this exceptional site, to offer a truly versatile space,” said Andrew King, partner and design principal at Lemay. “It has been reborn as a destination unto itself, now able to fully accommodate a wide range of major events.” The architectural geometry of Expo 67 is repeated in the new design. For example, the geometric patterns found in Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, also known as the Biosphere, have been reproduced in the pavilion roofs, wall perforations and outdoor paving. Materials, lighting and massing were specially selected to help guide visitors through the site and are optimized for crowd management. + Lemay Photography by Marc Cramer via Lemay

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Lemay injects new life into Montreals Expo 67 site

Henning Larsen wins bid to design a sustainable business district for Shenzhen

May 13, 2019 by  
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Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen Architects has won an international competition for the design of the Shenzhen Bay Headquarters City, a new district in the southern Chinese city spanning 5.5 million square meters. Working alongside two other local firms, Henning Larsen’s green and sustainable master plan will help cement Shenzhen  — often likened to China’s Silicon Valley — as the innovation center of the country. A critical part of the Shenzhen Bay Headquarters City is reconnecting the business district with the waterfront and emphasizing the pedestrian urban realm — something that Chinese planning authorities have long overlooked in favor of vehicular traffic. In Henning Larsen’s approach, cars will be relegated to an underground network of roads and highways so that commuter cars will rarely be seen aboveground in public areas. Moreover, the master plan’s central organizing axis will consist of a linear waterway that visually and physically connects the district to two larger bodies of water. “Our design aims to make Shenzhen the waterfront city it should always have been,” said Claude Godefroy, partner and design director of Henning Larsen’s Hong Kong Office. “To create an attractive waterfront, we brought commercial and cultural facilities meters away from the seashore, so citizens will finally be able to enjoy the atmosphere of Shenzhen Bay in an activated urban environment, like in Sydney, Singapore or Copenhagen.” Related: MVRDV unveils a “three-dimensional city” skyscraper for Shenzhen The architects also want to introduce a more “porous urban fabric.” Rather than create massive shopping malls that sit beneath tall buildings, Henning Larsen proposes siting smaller buildings between the towers and tucking retail partially underground. The city’s porous nature will optimize access to sea breezes to combat the urban heat island effect . As part of its “Forest City” vision for the master plan, the firm also plans to introduce 10,000 trees, roof gardens and ground-level bioswales to help cool the environment and create habitats for birds and insects. + Henning Larsen Images via Henning Larsen

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MVRDV to dramatically revitalize Frances historic Palais du Commerce

February 14, 2019 by  
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Dutch design firm MVRDV has won a competition to renovate and expand the historic Palais du Commerce in Rennes, France. The impressive 19th century palace had once served multiple public functions but now suffers from disconnect with current civic life. Working in collaboration with co-architects Bernard Desmoulin for developers Frey and Engie Avenue, MVRDV plans to reactivate the former public building and transform it into an inviting mixed-use destination that will serve as the centerpiece of the city’s main commercial street. The 18,000-square-meter redevelopment project will include not only a building restoration with a modern 6,000-square-meter timber expansion of the Palais du Commerce, but also the reactivation of the surroundings including the transformation of the Place de la République into a pedestrian-friendly public square as well as the conversion of the Rue du Pré Botté into a landscaped pedestrian area. The landmark building will also be updated with a sensitive approach that will be respectful of its iconic 19th-century design while greatly increasing the building’s transparency. In addition to the replacement of existing windows with larger panes of glass, glazed storefronts will be added to the arches of the arcade and a new grand, winding staircase will anchor the center of the facade. “Not only is Palais du Commerce a local landmark, but its transformation will turn the Place de la République into a popular destination and act as a vital catalyst for its surroundings,” says Nathalie de Vries, founding partner of MVRDV. “Our design approaches this task with an appreciation of the building’s history, but also with an eye towards the future, helping Rennes to achieve its urban vision. The additions that we will make are clearly modern in character, clearly showcasing this design as the latest chapter in the building’s storied history.” Related: MVRDV designs solar-powered “KoolKiel” with Jenga-like architecture in Germany The building’s mixed-use program will include new shops, a hotel, offices, a co-working space, a variety of leisure spaces — including a LEGO museum, event space and an electronic music bar — and a school for the kitchen and hotel industry led by chef Thierry Marx. All spaces of the building will be used more effectively, from the basements to the roof, which will include a new bistro in the building’s central dome. Construction on the project is slated to begin in 2022, with completion expected in 2025. + MVRDV Images via ENGRAM, diagrams via MVRDV

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MVRDV to dramatically revitalize Frances historic Palais du Commerce

Twisting tree-like sculptures redefine a public space in Montreal

August 6, 2018 by  
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Giant twisting tree-like sculptures have sprouted in downtown Montreal—and passersby are welcome to climb to the top of its gnarled canopy. The striking art installation is the latest work of local artist Michel de Broin , who was invited by the City of Montreal to help activate the recently developed International Civil Aviation Organization Plaza (ICAO). Dubbed Dendrites after the branched projections of a neuron, the large-scale artworks are clad in weathering steel and are equipped with metal stairs with platforms for an interactive element. Spanning both sides of Notre-Dame Street in downtown Montreal , Dendrites comprises two sculptural stairways that mimic the form of trees and neuron structures. The reddish hue of its weathering steel cladding is a reference to ochre tree trunks as well as the urban site’s industrial past and iron infrastructure. “Dendrites encourages climbing through a network of alternate possible routes,” explains the project press release. “When a passer-by ascends the stairs they consistently face a bifurcation, and a decision must ensue. An apt metaphor is found in the way thoughts are formed in the human brain through the transmission of electrical impulses within a larger network of neuronal dendrites; much like the climber in the sculpture discovering the structures of his surrounding environment. From one end of the work to the other — like a neural impulse traveling across the brain — the walker climbs the stairs and ventures into the sculpture, emerging on the other side with a new perspective.” Related: Whimsically windswept cabin-like kiosks are designed to soothe urban stress The emphasis of walking ties into the redevelopment of site, which was formerly a car-centric area that was displaced as a new pedestrian-friendly and cyclist-friendly space. Dendrites’ twisting branches culminate in a series of independent viewing platforms of varying heights, allowing multiple visitors to climb and enjoy the sculpture simultaneously. + Michel de Broin Images by Michel de Broin and Jules Beauchamp Desbiens

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Twisting tree-like sculptures redefine a public space in Montreal

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