K11 Art Mall Shanghai by Kokaistudios
Shanghai-based architectural practice, Kokai Studios, have designed the K11 Art Mall project. Completed in 2013, the shopping centre can be found in Shanghai’s central shopping street, Huai Hai Lu. This innovative commercial project has re-vitalized the podium levels of the landmark New World Tower, an icon of the 1990s commercial renaissance of Shanghai.
The practice oversaw both the architecture and the interior design of the commercial space in an ambitious intervention that deeply transformed the building and its relations with the surroundings. This K11 project, embodying its core brand values of “Art, People and Nature” creates new scenarios to the city’s commercial heart. Early this year, the project was awarded “Core and Shell LEED Gold Certification for Existing Buildings” and received the prestigious Asia Pacific Property Awards 2013 in Commercial Renovation/ Redevelopment Category.
Can you talk briefly about the design concept? What were some chief concerns and how were these addressed?
By integrating three core concepts including Art, People and Nature, K11 reaches the perfect integration of art appreciation, humanistic experience, naturalness and environmental protection to create a unique and innovative retail lifestyle experience. K11 Art Mall intertwines functions of art galleries, shopping mall and catering all in one, bringing together all kind of tastes, from extravagant luxury to more mid-level brands coupled with a wide choice of F&B destinations.
Conceived as a storyboard in the early stage of the project, the ‘journey of imagination’, instead, is a specific design instrument developed in order to give depth, substance and coherence to the different parts and places coexisting within K11, each of them strongly characterised with explicit reference to nature (forest, lake, waterfall, vertical garden, etc.) and closely related among them in narrative sequence.
Access to the building and circulation within it have been radically reconfigured into a seamless imaginative sequence of experiences spiraling around the central outdoor court, a “journey” where public spaces are interwoven with art display areas, hi-tech features softened and juxtaposed by living elements and natural materials.
What was the biggest challenge of this project?
The biggest challenge was achieving a visionary innovation in a renovation, coordinating instances and players sometimes pushing in opposite directions. The renovation of the podium façades, for instance, implied opposite and conflictive needs for conservation and innovation: on one side the respect for Huai Hai Road historical heritage, and New World Tower’s original design was a major concern for the local authorities, on the other side, K11 and its tenants demanded visibility and a new fresh take on design.
On the technical point of view, some of the features proposed represented a challenge in themselves. Such is the case of the 280m2 free-form glass skylight in the central court. Its unique design required the use of special software for its engineering, geometric control and positioning, during the construction, of its custom made mullions, with triangular section for maximized transparency, each node uniquely shaped and individually cast.
Or the ‘waterfall’, with its nine floors height the tallest outdoor water features in Asia and among the tallest in the world: it operates completely automatically, wind and temperature controllers shutting down the water in case of unfavorable conditions.
What is your favourite part of this project?
The central courtyard is the place where the very essence of the renovation comes together, a luxuriant oasis opened to city. Nature is twice present, in the living vertical garden integrated to the façade surrounding the courtyard and as a constant reference in the architectural elements and the decorative patterns around.
Art is a consistent presence too, with display areas integrated to the vertical garden. The waterfall flows, visual and acoustic background.
The free form skylight provides access and natural illumination to the double-height underground atrium, event space and living core of the renovated mall, and through its glass floor, to the art galleries in basement three below. Natural light reach the innermost parts of the mall during daytime through the glass ceiling. At night, it’s the artificial light from below providing a diffuse glow to the floor of the basement two atrium.
This visual integration of all public areas, spiraling around the courtyard up to the roof garden the six triggers the interplay of peoples, allowing them to see and being seen.
Images courtesy of Charlie Xia
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