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Architectural Makeover – Using Adaptive Reuse to Turn an Old Tower into a Fabulous Skyscraper!

How would you like to see an old boring structure transform into something modern, something that will be a testament to today’s look? MVRDV, a renowned name in the world of design and innovation, exemplifies adaptive reuse with their transformation of a mixed-use building in China, into a vibrant and colorful skyscraper.

The tower, initially constructed in 1994, was abandoned due to safety concerns, and by 2019, changing user needs and environmental standards rendered it obsolete. To meet the country’s environmental goals of achieving carbon peak and carbon neutrality, the National Development and Reform Commission chose the tower as one of 24 model revitalization projects.

With the adaptive reuse principle, MVRDV transformed the tower into the Shenzhen Women & Children’s Centre – a 100-meter tall skyscraper in Shenzhen’s Futian district featuring a hotel and a bunch of other facilities for the welfare of women and children.

Understanding Adaptive Reuse

Before we delve into the features of this new skyscraper, let’s quickly understand the concept of adaptive reuse. It is a sustainable architectural practice that involves repurposing existing structures for new functions, rather than demolishing them and starting from scratch.

It embraces the idea that older buildings can be given a new lease on life, meeting the evolving needs of the community. This approach not only reduces waste and conserves resources but also adds unique character and history to the urban landscape. 

Today, sustainability and achieving net zero is on everyone’s mind. The AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) industry is leading the charge in redefining how we design and construct buildings with minimal environmental impact. This entails creating energy-efficient structures, using eco-friendly materials, innovative design strategies, and adopting innovative practices like adaptive reuse. 

Giving the Tower a Complete Makeover!

MVRDV achieved the transformation by reusing approximately 24,000 cubic meters of the original concrete, allowing it to significantly reduce carbon emissions. The new structure was designed in such a way that it emphasized reusing the existing structure, making it a more sustainable alternative to demolition and reconstruction.

A new façade was added to the base of the skyscraper, featuring frames in different colors – yellow, orange, pink, and green were added. They not only convey the building’s layout but also provide shading to minimize thermal heat gain and incorporate openable panels for natural ventilation. This design enhances occupants’ comfort and reduces the building’s reliance on air conditioning.

As we move up the tower, which houses the hotel, the colors shift to a more neutral white. On the ground floor, the four main entrances are each marked with a different color, making it easy for visitors to find their way around.

Here are some other changes MVRDV implemented in the redesign-

  • The tower’s top now features a spacious terrace with a 360-degree view of the neighborhood.
  • The former parking courtyard has been transformed into a public space with a food court.
  • The metro entrance, once on the sidewalk, has been moved inside the building to better connect it to public transit and promote a shift away from car reliance.

Talking about the project, MVRDV founding partner Jacob van Rijs says “The Shenzhen Women and Children’s Centre could be a pioneering project for Shenzhen. With the city’s fast-paced growth, many existing buildings were not designed to have a long lifespan. That is a recipe for either an epidemic of demolition or, ideally, a great wave of adaptive reuse. 

“Showing that even the most inadequate of these structures can be reused could save a crazy amount of concrete going to landfill – and eliminate millions of tonnes of carbon emissions that would have been created replacing that concrete,” he added. 

Repurposing old structures without demolition is a great way to mitigate construction waste and CO emissions. Practices like adaptive reuse not only breathe new life into old buildings but also enhance sustainability by conserving resources and preserving urban character and history. Choosing adaptive reuse fosters responsible architecture and construction, promoting more resilient, environmentally conscious cities.

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