Industrial Narrative in Leisure Mode

Eduard Kögel
12. April 2023
View towards south entrance (Photo © TAL)

The centre of Shenzhen was historically located in the Luohu District but has been slowly migrating westward for years, causing the old city infrastructure to lose its significance. The Kingway Brewery once stood as a reference for the city’s migrants and pioneers, signalling their own arrival in the Special Economic Zone. After all, the beer from the brewery is firmly anchored in the collective memory; representing, as it were, the dreams of social advancement that the migrants carried with them.

Aerial view from south (Photo © Hu Kangyu)

Today, with the relocation of urban functions, buildings in the former centre are falling into disuse and must make way for new purposes as traditional manufacturing is replaced by smart economy. Although in this example, a substantial portion of the old brewery was demolished and replaced with new buildings, the architects were able to keep some of the characteristic industrial buildings within an elongated rectangular area of the former complex and repurpose them for cultural facilities.

South entrance vista tower (Photo © TAL)

Across what is a slightly sloping site, the external walls of the enclosed industrial functions formerly located along the lowest level of the brewery complex present a physical barrier at street level, 1.65 meters high on one side and three meters on the other. The architects turned this base level into a pediment with an exhibition platform on its upper outdoor surface, with many access points non-hierarchically integrating into the surrounding neighbourhood. Carefully considered interventions turned the existing buildings into exhibition spaces, themed gardens in sunken courtyards, passageways and recreational areas that keep alive the memory and narrative of the site’s history.

Interior of south entrance (Photo © TAL)

The spatial organization of the new cultural functions begins at the southern entrance, with a newly-built observation tower (A). Next along the spatial axis is a former rectangular wastewater basin (B) which has been unsealed together with an adjacent round sedimentation basin which has been transformed into a landscape garden, both physically accessible and visually experienceable through borehole openings cut in the heavy concrete walls of the buildings (B) and (C) adjoining it.

B tower (Photo © Hu Kangyu)

At the top of the existing building over the wastewater treatment basin (B), the architects placed a 300-square-meter exhibition area constructed and clad in metal, which is accessed by a ramp that wraps upwards following the perimeter line of the old sedimentation basin. Above the former, square-shaped aeration tank structure (C), a new installation made of cast aluminium and shimmering lighting evokes the golden air bubbles in the beer.

Interior of B tower (Photo © TAL)

Midway along the journey the former fermentation line (D), which was the most symbolic part of the brewery and consists of a sequence of 33 stainless steel fermentation tanks extending in a block along the remaining half of the site. A new media hall and auditorium has been added at this point, directly in front of the silo block. Some of the cylindrical tanks were removed to create a public open-air theatre. The preserved silos are viewable from outdoor platforms connected by bridges, and a large beer bar for visitors was created in the former production facility at the lower level of the silo block.

Aerial walkway (Photo © Hu Kangyu)

The spatial organisation ends with a building at the northern end that was once the four-story yeast recycling plant. Here, a superstructure faced with red tiles has been placed on the roof, from which a floor-to-ceiling window provides a view towards the adjacent mountain park and the urban landscape.

Aerial walkway (Photo © TAL)

Through the selective insertion of new buildings, Urbanus architects have playfully transformed the former Kingway Brewery into an architectural landscape that opens up the site and its cultural programme to the adjacent urban neighbourhood. Using a diverse range of cultural and leisure activities, with exhibition spaces and creative offices as well as retreat spaces in garden courtyards, it was not only possible to preserve the memory of the industrial site but furthermore to inscribe it in the city’s history with an updated narrative about industrial production.

Sunken courtyard of C tower (Photo © TAL)

The ground-level pediment with its precisely inscribed geometric spaces serve as the basis of the narrative, into which new architectural elements ‘plug-in’ and define the new cultural location. The collage of old and new inserts a new ‘building block’ of commemorative culture into the rapidly growing metropolis, thereby giving residents a sense of time and allowing them to accompany the history of production into a new urban awakening in which the memory of the beginning remains alive.

Installation “Casting On Site” (Photo © Hu Kangyu)
Kingway Brewery Renovation
Location: Luohu District, Shenzhen, China
Design: 2019–2022
Construction: 2021–2022
Site Area: 11,025 m2
Floor Area: 12,309 m2
Client: Guangdong Yuehai Land Holdings Limited   
Architects: URBANUS
Principal Architect: Meng Yan
Building Renovation 
Project Manager: Zhang Haijun (Design Development), Wendy Wu (Bidding Phase)
Project Architect: Wen Ting (Design Development), Milutin Cerovic (Bidding Phase) 
Team: Ni Ruoning, Cheng Zhidi, Yuan Ruizhe, Dong Wenhan, Yue Ran, Lin Yanyu, Liao Guotong (Design Development) | Zheng Zhi, Yue Ran (Bidding Phase) | Li Rui, Rachael H Gaydos, Huang Jingxian, Wang Yuchu, Lin Kan, Gao Qingyue, Chen Yining, Zhang Chengjie, Zhou Jie (Internship)
Landscape Design
Project Architect: Zhang Xuejuan 
Project Manager: Li Guanda 
Team: Zhu Jiangchen, Gao Yufeng
Research & Curation 
Curation Team: Wendy Wu | Wu Siying, Liu Yuxin (Executive Curation) | Wang Qinxue (Bidding, Development, Curation) | Mo Sifei, Zhu Hongrui (Bidding Phase) | Song Yu, Peng Yuanlu (Internship) 
Photographers: Hu Kangyu, TAL, Zhang Chao, URBANUS
Installation “Casting On Site” (Photo © TAL)
Multifunctional hall (Photo © TAL)
Exhibition space (Photo © TAL)
Beer-bar in basis under silos (Photo © TAL)
Open air gallery between silos (Photo © TAL)
Northeast view of D5 tower (Photo © TAL)
Wider neighborhood (Photo © Hu Kangyu)
Renovation Strategy © Urbanus
Masterplan © Urbanus
Basement Plan, 1st Floor Plan © Urbanus
2nd Plan, 3rd Floor Plan © Urbanus
5th Plan, Roof Plan © Urbanus
Section © Urbanus

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