After the 2019 Beijing International Horticultural EXPO, the Botanic Garden designed by URBANUS is the only pavilion still in operation in the campus. The plants have got adapted to the new environment, and grow vigorously. This gives us a chance to rethink the botanic garden as a new typology to promote urban life in a community.
The urban botanic garden could become a trigger for community bonding, especially in the northern cold area. After designing the 2019 EXPO Botanic Garden, we have the confidence to persuade the clients to implant a glasshouse in every potential project as an agent for community making. Then, this Shenyang project showed up.
Located in a new financial town in the suburb of Shenyang, this planned 5,000 square meters community center belongs to a commercial plot which will house 50,000 square meters of future development. Our program research discovered two disadvantages: 1. this new developing area does not have sufficient population to support large quantities of retails; 2. It is very questionable that how to make a typical shopping center competitive. After discussion with the client, we both agreed that this commercial center should be something special. Thus it came the idea of using a botanic garden to energize the space. The client was very much excited about the proposal, and commissioned URBANUS to design the entire 50,000 square meters project, rather than a singular community center.
With analyzing various potential commercial models in this area, an innovative layout appeared: a greenhouse was employed as the center of all programs to attract visitors and start-up business. Due to the thermos protection, the greenhouse is not fully glass-roofed, and its partially solid roof provides a social space for upper floor communities. This model could be an attractive typology, however, it is uncommon in the reality for several reasons: 1. For the real estate developers: the greenhouse would eat up FAR. 2. For the Governmental Building Department: the greenhouse would exceed the footprint coverage. 3. For the Governmental Landscape Bureau: the greenery in the greenhouse would not be counted. Luckily, this district is an experimental area which allows reasonable negotiation on the existing codes. The proposal is finally approved by the government on account of its potential benefits for the public space.
This project was born during the 2020 Spring Festival. The keyword at the pandemic time was "quarantine", which also aroused the desire for community gatherings. It took less than four months from schematic design to construction documents.
1. The site layout: The east side of the lot is the main entry road of the town. The length of this side is more than a hundred meters long, so the logic is that a long unified street wall is more powerful to image design than a scattered volumns. In addition, this is the first phase of the project, and it is necessary to save the land for the second phase greenhouse on the west, therefore, the community center is defined within the narrow north-south boundary at east side. No basement is designed due to the intense time schedule. 2. The main facade: The facade is designed to display interior programs. Three community scenarios are showcased here: first, a linear library with reading tables along the windows. This library would light up the street in the long winter evenings. Second, a community multifunctional hall with its window as a big frame to expose its inner activities. Third, a reception hall with a small greenhouse garden. All of the three venues will become the components of the street wall. 3. The front plaza: Defined by the extended column grids, the plaza is not only used as ceremonial gathering space, but also serves other public activities, with a mountain-shaped playground. 4. Programs and circulations: The programs of the community center best illustrate the future lifestyle of the town, including gallery, exhibition center, conference center, library, etc.
The clue that synthesizes those scenarios together is the concept of greenhouse. Be grateful to the vertical green system that has started to become a mature business in this area, the nature is introduced into each program, and in return, the project can be a good example to promote the vertical greenery industry.
There are three paths from ground level to the second floor: the stair at the east that synchronized with the external staircase can lead to the reading space on the second floor; through the bamboo forest at the west atrium, the conference area on the second floor can be reached; on the south side there is an art gallery, whose triangle atrium could also make upstairs accessible.
For the space that has no conditions for the real greenery, the graphic design is applied in lieu of real plants. The painting from French painter Rousseau inspires the design of our wallpaper and the carpets to have the motif of wild world interior. We hope the future greenhouse is not only visual, but also could be experienced in sound, smell, and taste.
The greenery design of this project expresses not only an intention to build a greenhouse in Northeast China, but also a wish to set up a warm community with a greenhouse.