As an experienced practitioner of the design industry, we have always aspired to create a story. The story begins and ends at a casual space in the bustling busy urban city center. The office space should not only be a place for serious work, but also for a place for friendly mingling.
We were surprised to discover this old garment manufacturing factory in the deep recesses of a narrow alley in the GuLou District of Nanjing. She is ironically secluded within the well-trafficked downtown area. The space has a serene character that belies her place of residence. We want her inherent calm to diffuse to any visitors that come by.
In shaping the spatial structure, we decided to fully respect the space’s nature to integrate the space with the spirit of the neighborhood. To capture the moment, we needed to balance the conflict between our space’s serenity against the cacophony of her surroundings. Against all desires to bring in the new, we wanted to preserve her façade and characteristic.
When a visitor takes the first step through the gate, it should seems as though transported through a portal to a different dimension – one that is the antithesis of one step prior. The change in scenery is certainly unexpected, although the visitor may still observe from whence they came from the windows. Any passerby will be intrigued and pleased to discover such a portal to transport them to a calm world.
As we delve further, we will see an almost completely open area integrated into the building’s bulk structure. The floor and wall are monolithic – continuous and unified, using high strength cement-based millstone technology. Through the built-in difference in elevation in the floor, the space is conveniently delineated into different functional zones. Another key role of the varied elevation of the floor is to address the lingering problems of the plumbing in older buildings. Even though there is ample space for professional discourse, there is extra room for casual interaction. One could be in an office with co-workers then within a few steps be drinking tea with friends around a fireplace – reminiscing the past and enjoying the present. One can filter out all unnecessary decorations and end up with a minimalist and artistic aesthetic, full of architectural texture.
The original structural support and beams retain the original appearance of the old civil construction, only for dust cover treatment. The outer layer of the building carries a long history, but we have given it new meaning, a tribute to the present of the decades-old factory building.
The central island bar and the floor are made of the same material,cast from the same stone. The Australian fir on top is an appropriate combination of the elements of wood and stone, which is our interpretation of the power of nature. Functionally, the bar effectively connect the office areas on both side of the space, realizing efficient work communication and even inviting for a relaxing afternoon tea.
As designers who grew up in the center of Nanjing, we have a special connection to this city. As Nanjing lies on the Yangtze river, we bridge this relationship by bringing a part of the Yangtze into our fish tank in the form of river stones. The Yangtze river stones bring a deep red, inciting a heavy sense of age into the walls and present in the form of rammed earth wall. Glass partition and hanging dividers subdivide the office area but gives the feeling of having more space than what exists.
The existing skylight has been repurposed to realize the interflow between indoor and outdoor so that the bamboo inside the space may thrive. This also infuses the ethereal light into the soul of our serene lady. At high noon, the warm sunlight enters through the skylights and mixes with the moist atmosphere. As the air mixture flows, so does the light. This charm lights up the walls. Come evening, the sunset raises our heads from our desks and brings a second wind to remind us of more of life to enjoy.
The minimal displays of decorations match the simplicity of the white space. Rocks, vegetation, fish tank – they need no other to shine. Simplicity is not to give up the attention to detail, but to focus on the minutiae. And thus end the story.