A room with a View
A room with a View
24. September 2014
The workshop of O-office Architects in Guangzhou was built on top of an old silo building that was part of a brewery. Its views go south across the river towards downtown and north towards a generic new high-rise housing estate. The architects reused the industrial space with basic but radical interventions to transform it into a basis for their own business.
Site with the river
The city of Guangzhou is one of the strongest nucleuses of the current urbanisation around the Pearl River Delta in the southern part of China. Together with the special economic zone of Shenzhen, the former Portuguese colony of Macau and the former British colony of Hong Kong, the region is an economic powerhouse.
Silo - top studio
The unparalleled development of recent years has changed the face of the region. The administration of Guangzhou developed a new commercial and cultural centre east of the historic centre next to the Pearl River. With international stars like Zaha Hadid for the new Opera House, Hong Kong based architect Rocco Yim for the Guangdong Museum or the Dutch firm of Information Based Architecture for the new Canton Tower, the government redrew the skyline, marking the aspiration of the city in the 21th century with iconic buildings.
Old factory new identity
Besides these new signature buildings, young local designers and architects have established their own approach, making interesting contributions. Already in the 1950s Guangzhou had a specific discourse on regional modernism, based on climate, tradition and culture. The combination of extreme pressure on the land and redundant industrial buildings has instigated the reuse of old facilities for the booming creative industries.
North of the ring road around the historic core of Guangzhou, on a tributary of the Pearl River, an ensemble of twelve concrete silo buildings from the 1960s is a leftover of the oldest brewery in town. The whole area has been turned into a hub for the creative industries. The cylinders of the silos are connected at the ground floor with a one-storey basement structure, which is used by a restaurant and other commercial firms.
Poetic alcove loft
The tops of the silos are covered with another continuing space that decks the inlets for the wheat berries. To the side is a service tower containing the stairway, elevator and other facilities. It was used as a vertical transportation tower to bring the wheat berries for the beer production to the top, from where they were filled into the silos. The floor was therefore perforated with square holes.
Flexible space folder
O-office Architects opened the 40-metre long space with big window-doors to allow the outer half of the silos to be used as terrace and extensions of the interior space. In four inlet holes in the floor Wampee trees now grow in metal plant boxes, the other inlets are covered with glass to allow a view into the empty silos. All the plastering on walls and ceilings was removed to show the red brick and concrete work from the original construction. Only steel, wood and glass were used for the new architectural intervention to keep the rough industrial appearance of the original space.
Industrial aesthetic construction
A small bar area was built next to the entrance door in front of the facade in the vertical transportation tower. Above is a mezzanine which the staff uses for informal meetings or just for having a rest. A big solid marble table was constructed in the originally elevated bridge hall between the vertical transport tower and the horizontal space on top of the silos.
It is used for formal meetings and presentations. Two large folding doors have been built in-between the bridge space and the workshop space. They can be used to separate the workshop space from the meeting bridge, allowing the bridge hall to work together with the bar area and be used for small lectures, receptions or exhibitions.
These creative interventions in a rough industrial building, which was never intended to be used in such a manner, stand in sharp contrast to the generic housing estates and the star cult iconic landmarks that represent the new aspirations of official China. The reuse of historic leftovers adds new layers of meaning to an urban structure that is under threat of demolition due to the spiralling land values.
The nature participator of the office
By redeveloping such ordinary industrial buildings with creativity and for the creative, the collective memory in Guangzhou is being catalysed. With some envy we can congratulate O-office Architects for their atmospheric working space and for the fantastic view across the river.
Loft 7 E8, 63 Xizeng Road, Liwan District Guangzhou, China