The project “Old Market Folk Culture Block _ Phase I” is located around the east end of the South Shuncheng Alley of Xi’an. Among the decaying sountheast inner city, the market which used to be a velveteen factory is the only corner bustling with life. The project’s ambition is to renew the area in a gentle way that preserves its local community.
The step plaza that connets multiple levels © LEON
1. 背景 | BACKGROUND
Aerial view from east city wall ©行止计画
The original velveteen factory and the transformed market ©行止计画
The Southeast inner city in Xi’an has been a place for important mansions and offices at the beginning of the 20th century; After the New China founded, several Unit Yard Communities—Danwei were constructed here; After China’s opening up in1976, the tough boundaries of those Unit Yards prevented this area from brutal urban developments afterwards, which preserved the low-rise, high-density texture of this area; Stepped into the 21st century, the area fell down with the transferring of productions and decaying of infrastructures. The velveteen factory in this area discontinued in 2000, the obsoleted space transformed into a market which is a welcoming place for the surrounding residence as “Jianguomen Market”. But the structural problems of this area haven’t been solved, the market with the area together need to step forward. At the end of 2018, the micro-renewal plan “Old Market Folk Culture Block” landed in and we were assigned to design its starting section.
View of the market before and after renovation © LEON
2. 碎片 | FRAGMENTS
As the starting point, the original market is totally preserved. On the one hand, the building codes within the city wall area and the limited investment make it impossible to demolish and reconstruct in large scale. More importantly, the project aims to retain the market’s vivid atmosphere and subtle balance, to bring new function, space and people on the basis of the original community. The project includes one self-built building by local residence (Building 1), the original producing building of the velveteen factory (Building 2, built in 1976, annex part built in 2017), and the original office building (Building 3, built in 1980). The ground floor of these buildings are main spaces for the market，which are the preserved part. So the vacant upper floors and roofs are leased by the investor as the space for new functions in the future——include the 3rd floor, the 4th floor of Building 1, the 2nd floor 3rd floor and the roof of Building 2, the 5th floor, the 6th floor and the roof of Building 3.
Retrospective study ©行止计画
With clear property rights and lower cost, the upper spaces also own broad views which is rare among the crowded low-rise inner city. The close look to city wall on the rooftops are surprising experience. However, these spaces are too fragmented, lacking strong connection and accessibility.
3. 修补 | BRICOLAGE
In order to sewing the “fragments”, “Bricolage” is necessary. Unlike restoration, bricolage means to create based on the original. In the process of “bricolage”, we need the wisdom to working on the detail to improve the entire structure.
Bricolage that knead the fragments ©行止计画
“Bricolage” consists of three major parts: the STEP PLAZA that links market entrance to building 1 and 2, the VERTICAL CORE that undertakes vertical traffics and the BRIDGE that connects building 2 and 3.
Section after renovation ©行止计画
3.1 台阶广场 | The STEP PLAZA
The physical condition before renovation ©行止计画
In the weak enclosure of Building 1,2 &3 is the annex building of Building 2, which is a one-floor, steel structure. At the first stage of design, we were asked to “decorate” the inner space and outer facade of the steel structure’s south-end span as the entering hall for Building 2. However, the operation in such scale is not valid enough to meet the ambition of the project. From our view, a solid entrance in proper size is necessary. As the factory part can only lease the south-end span of the annex building, we decided to demolish the first span and lower the second, introduce steps to go up to the roof, and open the roof as the entrance which connects multiple floors. The closed entrance hall transformed into an open plaza. Steps going up, not only bring people entering the upper levels, and also become the stage for market’s public life.
Entrance view ©LEON
Axonometric drawing of the step plaza and Structural diagram ©行止计画
Specifically, the design dismantled the building’s first south span to open space for stairs going up to the roof plaza, for the entrance going to the vertical core and make a way going to the inside annex building; Then we lower the second span’s roof level to 2.8m, to reach the ground floor’s mezzanine in Building 2; On the main platform that is 4.6m, there arranges the activity zone, the steps to Building 2’s main entrance and the way to Building 1. In order to minimize investment, our design tried to avoid any invasion or affection on current properties, and the original structure is either preserved or reused on site. The STEP PLAZA opens five new entrances on the old structure. It transforms an abandoned roof to a crucial traffic hub and a vivid public space.
Step plaza view towards the city wall ©LEON
3.2 交通筒 | The VERTICAL CORE
The design of the VERTICAL CORE is more definite. We extend original stairway to the rooftop, along with two new elevators. A glass box that envelops them is added on top. Its minimalist look strongly contrasts to the old brick facade, and its bright interior amplifies the transformation experience from a crowed street to an open roof top.
Transitions from the old to the new ©行止计画
3.3 连桥 | The BRIDGE
The BRIDGE links building 3 to the main circulation. We wraps it with mesh to minimize its self-weight, and to reveal its strong structure-oriented form.
The bridge ©杨濛
4. 介入的选择性 | Choices On Intervention
Under the strictly limited cost of this project, allocation of resources is an important work of design ——the decision on “what to do” should be first, and then “how to do”. After the three major “bricolage”, we gave the limited cost to stabilize the structure, to reinforce the roof, to change the glass and reorganize all kinds of pipelines. The factory space was kept to its original emptiness and brutality, waiting for the influx of unknown functions. The few renovations we did only aim to retain and mark out the industrial traces of the past: For the window renovation, we choose to dismantle the damaged glasses, but retain the iron window frames, and add aluminum window from inside; For the walls in public space, we only put varnish on to keep the rough texture as it used to be；The old hoisting motor was lighted up by skylight, like a sculpture marking the old time. The high windows on the top floor were changed to whole sheets of glasses, then the reformed roof seems floating above.
The sky view with old hoisting motor ©行止计画
The reformed roof that floats above ©行止计画
5. 空间与场景 | Spaces and Scenes
The project is like a parallel space insert into the normal community life. The original normal urban scenes become meaningful when they were dragged into the paralleled space; People step into the Step Plaza, overlooking the bustling Xinyi Alley and the ancient city wall in a distance; Go up to the rooftop, seeing the battlements of the city wall extend with the handrail horizontally, and the spaces in different times are divided and paralleled; The lights of the alleys shine through the enlarged windows; The noise of the markets run through the newly cut opening. Inside and outside the market, the never ending theatre are taken onto a stage.
The horizontal veiw to the city wall on rooftop ©行止计画
The newly-cut opening towards the market ©行止计画
6. 结语 | CONCLUSION
“Old Market Folk Culture Block _ Phase I” is not a conventionally “complete” project, but an organization of regional resources, a clarification of renovation boundary, and implementation of crucial spaces. As a result, it is more like a construction of infrastructure for the regional renovation, to pave the way for the latter spaces. Half a year passed since the completion of Phase I, the factory space have hold several activities: art exhibition, animation festival and rooftop pop-up market; the original food market on the ground floor still runs in order, and interacts with surrounding changes; Building 4&5 in the Shuncheng Alley and Building 6 in Xinyi Alley started to renovate and sell; New groups of people are attracted to here, new noises started to make in this area, the “Old Market” began to become young.
Activities in the renovated factory space ©行止计画
The low-cost, multi-property develop mode make the renovation a long and volatile process; The project is hard to show its integrity under too many improvised changes. Some decorations afterwards were out of control and some spaces are still not fixed to certain functions……Fortunately, even under so many problems, the core of this design still shows its definite validity, and keeps bring active changes to this area.
Physical Model of Phase I ©行止计画
Project Location ©行止计画
Building2 ground floor plan ©行止计画
Building2 the 1.5th floor plan ©行止计画
Building2 the 2nd floor plan ©行止计画
Building2 the 3rd floor plan ©行止计画
Building2 the roof plan ©行止计画
Section of the vertical core ©行止计画
摄影：l’atelier de LEON+杨濛