Competition by invitation organized by the local Government of Jiading, in which their aim was to renovate the traditional West Gate to downtown Jiading.
Occupied by a local wet street market, the West Gate has been loosing over time the cultural relevance and significance that had on the past.
The new proposal was intended not only to bring back the relevance of all this cultural heritage, but also reactivate the area by the injection of commercial activity.
Understanding the wider context of the city of Jiading allowed us to draw inspiration from the traditional environment. With almost 800 years of history, Jiading is a town with a strong craftmanship tradition and a well-known culture of tolerance and respect to the coexistance of different ideas and beliefs. It has been historically famous for its educational institutions, a big tradition of passing on the knowledge.
THE DNA OF THE PLACE : Our bodies and minds are constantly progressing and evolving. Both traditional Chinese medicine and the modern western science agree on the theory that most of the human cells are constantly being replaced by itself, except the DNA, which keeps the essence of who we are.
A city is in fact a living methabolism, constantly regenerating itself. The question then is what is the DNA of the city that keeps te ethos of the city throughout the time?.
The total area of the renovation is 5950 m2, in which we aimed to identify the cultural DNA of the area and to address and highlight it through our design and program, in order to provide a new scenario for its reborn, passing on its heritage.
As well as the cultural intangibles, such as the craftsmanship, the teaching tradition, etc, define a NON-MATERIAL HERITAGE of Jiading, we found that there are also few tangible elements that generate the MATERIAL HERITAGE of the area.
Our aim then was to identify those tangible elements and highlight them in our proposal in order to keep the essentials, to keep the identity while modernizing it.
They can be as simple elements as the pavement material of the West Street, or the liuttle patios hidden behind the walls, or complex characteristic carpentry and woodwork present in the most significan façades, or perhaps a very interesting shading system improvised by locals to protect them from the sun & rain.
We identified the a group of tangible characteristics that called our attention abd inspired our proposal: - Small courtyards & patios as the intimate living spaces, currently disconnected and in lack of spatial coherence. - A forgotten river promenade, since all the houses are facing the pedestrian West Street. - The ancient pathway, the traditional materials & textures that give identity to the street. - Vernacular solutions to protect themselves from sun & rain, with handcrafted fabric canopies. - The traditional carpentry & woodwork, specially for doors and windows, with amazing patterns.
The proposal can be summarized as a cumulative process of several keypoints based on the idea of preserving the old & traditional soul while embracing new & contemporary solutions.
- 1. Preserving the key buildings, the most significant ones & kept in better conditions, in order to preserve the memory of the past settlement.
- 2. Preserving the old street pathway and materials, as the footprint that carries the soul of the old street.
- 3. Taking advantage of characteristic elements of the site, such as the waterfront, and the patios, in order to enhance the way visitors experience the public space.
- 4. Creating an alternative elevated pathway on the 2nd floor, which is the most important innovation with regard to the previous existing situation, increasing the linear meters of retail + cultural spaces while boosting the perception of the surrounding area, visually striking due to its different color and materiality, providing strength and personality to the architectural proposal. It is both, an aesthetical and a commercial strategic improvement.
- 5. Introducing a platform for an alternative type of cultural retail, workshops, galleries, etc..., which will culturally enrich & complement the regular retail scheme.
- 6. Inserting a big & striking featured public space right in the middle of the street, an object for the society, thought & designed to encourage social interactions, contact & relationships among people. A place to sit, talk, share, teach, learn, rest, etc...
In the nexus between the old and the new sides of Jiading, the site is part of a circuit of historical attractions, a neighborhood where important politicians or artists have lived in the past, etc...
The site counts with a Temple, a future park, and residencial areas. This proposal would complete the mixed scheme with retail, cultural & educational facilities. It is an opportunity to consolidated a great cultural hotspot, providing a platform for both, locals and tourists, targeting a wider range of visitors & users.
The proposal was also intended to be a catalyzer for the whole area, a cultural & economic development to be replicated in other zones of Jiading.
THE MULTILEVEL STRATEGY : The pedestrian platform on the 2nd level is one of the most important innovations with regard to the current existing situation. It is both, a commercial and a fuctional + aesthetical strategic improvement.
On one hand, it is a huge commercial strategic improvement since the lenght of potential commercial façades facing the pedestrians is multiplied by 3. This means that where we previously had roughly 200 meters of commercial façade, now we could have around 600 meters of façades from rentable spaces, making the intervention economically more feasible.
On the other hand, it is an aesthetic improvement as well because it enhances the perception of the new open area, it is visually stricking due to its different color and materiality, providing strength and personality to the architectural proposal. It is as well a functional improvement, because it provides open spaces for social interactions, it encourages the occurrence of social dynamics unimaginable in the narrow current situation.
Fundamentally based on the idea of « giving something back to the society », it improves not only the commercial activity, but also the public space of the whole area. Not only retailers, sellers or local craftmen and artisans would benefit from the new proposal, but also the entire community of West Gate in particular and Jiading in general. They would have a new public space to meet, to share, to walk, to talk, to learn, to relax, to laugh & have fun.