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Xishuidong Industrial Heritage Retail District This project raises the question of speed and progress within the context of China’s rapid urbanization and expanding middle class. Lewis Mumford attributed the biggest invention of our urban-industrial revolution to the mechanical clock, where organized time gave meaning to cities, giving urbanites the possibility of leisure. Today, our connections to community and our environment are lost in the world of spectacles and consumerism, and this project has the possibility of addressing some of these complex issues. With a renewed appreciation of the original fabric, pedestrianized streets were reintroduced to link the new retail spaces, new bridge connections, enlarged public amenities, and civic plazas. In so-doing, the project aims to bring a more humanized scale and temporality to these public spaces, while finding innovative ways of engaging the site’s own industrial heritage. An Old Industrial Organization for a New Urban Experience The design reinterprets the existing industrial fabric, in order to produce a new textured effect and rhythm in the city. The new architecture redeploys original typologies of north-light roof forms in the surrounding industrial buildings to maximize daylighting in the new spaces and produce new visual connections. Industrial forms and materials of the existing heritage buildings were reworked into the new architecture, yielding new forms of continuous stripes, with traditional industrial materials transformed into new applications such as sun louvers, mechanical equipment screens, staircases, terraces, lighting surfaces, commercial displays, and even urban furniture. The project consists of five new buildings, planned and designed to form a new cruciform retail street configuration alongside the historic industrial buildings. These buildings link up four landscaped plazas and a new bridge. Sitting on the edge of a twin-canal intersection, where the former cotton mills once drew its water, the site embodies the characteristics of the historic Jiangnan canal system, where its canal-front architecture gave distinctive character to the region. A series of new inter-penetrating street level architecture was stitched in between the historic buildings, such that one can have full experience of a highly articulated streetscape, flanked by both new and old buildings. Going beyond the conventions of historic preservation, this project is not merely recreating a rhythm and cityscape of the past. Through highly “corrugated” streetscapes, this project reinvents new concepts of time and culture in a post-industrial context. Contribution to Industrial Heritage Development and New Leisure Forms The city of Wuxi is not only the birthplace of the first industrial towns of China, but it is now the epicenter of China’s 530 Plan, bringing global talent and entrepreneurship to China. As a part of the largest urban redevelopment area in the Nanchang District, Xishuidong was named a national heritage site that preserved the industrial culture of the city. The name Xishuidong has a trans-literal meaning of the meeting point of the East and West canals, but also anticipates changes from an industrial city to a livable city that connects different global cultures. The project inserts itself within the discourse of preservation in innovative ways. The new street-level architecture also allows the developer to avoid a typical podium-and-tower typology, where commercial spaces are locked up in an enclosed mall. Not only does the reestablishment of streetscape reduce the dependency on air-conditioning and other unsustainable building systems, it allows the architecture different formal expressions in relating to the gated residential community in the vicinity. The new buildings link up a number of newly created piazzas and bridges, and connects delicately to the gardens of the residential compounds.

Xishuidong Industrial Heritage Retail District

Wuxi, Jiangsu


Design Categories:

Research Categories:

Recognition [+]:

International Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum, 2016

Publications [+]:

Cubes Indesign-Live Asia, 2012

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