The project is located in the Qingpu district of Shanghai. It is a temporary sale office for a mix-use commercial complex to the west of it.
The site of the project is also temporary: it is situated in between two lines, one the road redline and the other the building setback line. The width of it is 33 feet and it stretches along the north and south directions. When the whole development is finished, the site will be taken by the setback green. However, the life of the sale office will end even before that: when the commercial complex to the eastside of it starts, the excavation of the basement will already take it. As a result, the sale office will be only used for about one year.
The client decided to adopt the container construction system as the main building system under this specific site situation. The adoption of this system will guarantee speed and efficiency. The simple and straightforwardness of its architecture expression will also match the identification of the development.
The limited budget of the project forced us to focus on one very practical question at the beginning of the design: how to enclose the maximum building area (or volume) with the minimum usage of containers. The answer to this basic question leads to a basic offset-piling method. We adopted the offset-piling method to save the number of the containers and form a maximized atrium space for the location of the site-model and the business discussion area. The symmetrical atrium is double-height and facing south. Its simple and strong space order is a result of a rational design approach. The tectonic of the building is clearly expressed both for the exterior and exterior space.
The offset-piling method gives the atrium space a staggered positive-negative space interface: positive interface for the walls, negative interfaces for the openings. During the daytime, negative interfaces, as for the openings, provide the atrium space with light and views; at night, with our customized florescent wall washers, positive interfaces, as for the walls, are lit up and provide the atrium space with light and a strong presentation of materiality. The walls and the openings, the positive and the negative interfaces swap their roles at different times of day, while the structure of the space is integrated.
To the north of the building is located the back-of-house program: cashier, toilet, changing room, administration, and so on. These programs are well organized and stacked in two floors in an efficient manner.
In between the atrium and the back-of-house program, we designed a sculpture-like staircase. In terms of its geometry, it is a delicate balance of symmetry and asymmetry. In terms of circulation and visual experience, it is used as a transition between the front and the back area.
We introduced an additional element, a unified, one-direction inclined roof to cover the whole building. The addition of this element is the logical result of several considerations: in terms of the architectural expression, we would like the building to be more like a “house,” instead of merely a pile of containers; in terms of the tectonics, we prefer to have another unified element to pair with the concrete foundation of the building; in terms of construction, the offset-piling method requires an additional coverage to form a total enclosure; in terms of the physical performance of the building, the space that is defined by the original container roof and the additional roof is perfect for location of the insulation layer, to guarantee comfort for the interior space.
The drainage issue also needs to be considered. In our project, we regard drainage pipes as one important tectonic element, instead of a mere part of infrastructure. The pipe is divided into four parts, each of which has a proper length that could be easily transported by midsize trucks. These pipes are fixed to the main elevation of the building, forming a playful “trace of water” that is independent of the rigid language of the building itself. Rainwater is collected by this system, concentrated to the waterfall landscape to the north of the building, and unified the landscape design with the architecture design itself.