Vanke Jiugong mixed-use development in Beijing, China

The Vanke Jiugong project (Beijing) has been recognised for its intricate mixing of retail, leisure, entertainment, and office programmes, and for the strong urban connections and experiences it proposes through its inversion of the shopping mall typology.

SPARK wins the mixed-use category at the 24th annual Architectural Review MIPIM Future Project Awards 2014, which were conferred on 12 March in Cannes.

Currently under construction in Beijing’s rapidly redeveloping southern suburbs, Vanke Jiugong marks a continuation of SPARK’s investigations into the breaking up of the architectural mass of the shopping mall, and the forging of connections between ‘interiorised’ space and the city. The 127,000sqm development will incorporate a mall, a cinema, three live-work towers, and a separate retail pavilion, with a pedestrian bridge connection to an adjacent train station.

“A lot of our projects are about impacting the city with architecture – using architecture as a means of urban design,” explains SPARK Director Jan Felix Clostermann. “This is especially true when we design shopping malls, which traditionally completely turn their backs on the city. In the context of China, where there is very little urban public space, we typically try to extend the city into the building,” he says.

At Vanke Jiugong, SPARK has essentially designed three ground levels. The scheme proposes a perforated and penetrable building mass of interlocking components of various scales. A base retail block (with traditional curvilinear ‘race-track’ circulation) is prised open with glazing and voids at its periphery and pierced internally by two large conical voids, which draw daylight downward into the centre of the building mass and forge visual connections between levels. A sleek white palette contributes to a seamless and flowing retail environment.

On levels four and five, these volumes terminate with a second ‘ground plane’ – a village of restaurants in an orthogonally planned zone expressed with an alternate material treatment of timber and traditional terazzo tiles. Above is a third ‘ground plane’ – an environment akin to a miniaturised business park, where small office pavilions and larger live-work towers rise from a roof garden. “Level six will be a bit like a hutong in the sky,” says Clostermann, with the fragmented open areas of the garden taking a character similar to courtyards and available for the enjoyment of office users and the wider public.

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The cinema, positioned at one end of level six, will be connected to an external 24- hour circulation route that traverses the façade to allow direct access to and from the entertainment zone after shopping hours. While preventing the disconcerting experience of circulating through a ‘dead’ mall after hours, the external circulatory route will also enliven the exterior of the building, bringing vitality to its principal street façade.

The fragmented mass and reorganised volume of the development was inspired by The Tower of Babel – a sixteenth-century artwork by Peter Bruegel the Elder. The vertical ‘street life’ depicted on the painted tower and the perforation of its mass portray an expressiveness that SPARK wishes to capture for Vanke Jiugong. A double-layered façade incorporating a sinusoidal corrugated perforated aluminium screen will assist in the achievement of an engaging building face. Says Vanke Executive Vice President Mao Daqing, “The ideas of the vertical expression of activity and the interweaving of functions are among the key factors that led to Vanke’s appointment of SPARK for this project.”

The approach taken to the massing of mixed-use at Vanke Jiugong builds on that explored by SPARK in previous projects such as the Vision City scheme for Kuala Lumpur, Raffles City Beijing, and Fuzhou Wusibei Thaihot Plaza. This is SPARK’s third win in the annual MIPIM awards programme, having previously received accolades for Jing Mian Xin Cheng in the ‘Best Office and Business Development’ category in 2013, and for Shanghai International Cruise Terminal in the ‘Best Mixed Use’ category at MIPIM Asia in 2011.

Says Mao, “This ‘Best Mixed-use Award’ is testament to the tremendous efforts by Vanke to realise its positioning and rebranding as a developer that services the city.” Adapting to city growth and changing needs, Vanke Retail has extended its focus from local communities to the entire city. “This is the third Vanke retail development in Beijing,” he adds, “and a lot of expectations were placed on the project right from the beginning.” SPARK’s abandonment of the traditional shopping model and emphasis on the connection of internal shopping spaces with the city speaks of Vanke’s advanced ideas and international ambitions.

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