Outside Basel in the calm neighbourhood of Binningen, Switzerland, this semi-detached house by KOHLE... More
Shanghai-headquartered design and architecture firm Kokaistudios specialize in urban renewal projects that contribute positively to the built environment. When contracted by Chinese steel company Baosteel to revitalize and adapt their disused steel production site into a mixed-use eco-industrial park, two key priorities were identified: to preserve the historical and structural legacy of the site whilst simultaneously modernizing and reimagining it toward an eco-positive future.
The key to this balance was to embed flexibility within every level of the design and building process, from programming flexibility into multiple and unexpected site conditions to selecting the most appropriate and eco-friendly materials for adaptation.
The 725 sq.m Baoshan Exhibition Center – the first phase of the multifaceted project - is now complete. The full site envelope covers a total area of 450,000 sq.m and will ultimately house Baosteel’s cutting-edge waste-to-energy power plant, as well as a museum, offices, and wetland and park areas. To begin the process, Kokaistudios converted an original factory building (one of the few remaining structures on the site) into an exhibition center which functions as a gateway to the wider project. The center caters to a diverse audience of clients, developers, and prospective tenants, and also includes an educational component for students to learn about green energy strategies. In addition to the exhibition areas featuring models, drawings, and site plans, the building also houses food and beverage programmes, reception areas and interactive multimedia zones.
Rather than being seen as obstacles, the constraints of the original structure were reimagined. Heavy, utilitarian original piping and rusted machinery were completely preserved but an independent polycarbonate envelope was positioned within the perimeter of the structure, creating a new embedded architectural volume. This solution prioritized functionality in both practical terms (for example waterproofing and maximizing natural light penetration into the space) as well as spatially, creating a dynamic physical and aesthetic interplay between the translucent, light exterior material and the bulk and weight of the preserved structural elements.
This lightweight, contemporary design aesthetic was repeated across the building’s interiors, with concrete floors and stainless-steel clad bathrooms creating a cooling effect designed to play against the historical legacy of the site’s steel furnaces. Beyond aesthetic considerations, these materials are also fully recyclable, cost and time efficient, and perhaps most importantly, have facilitated a built-in adaptability and openness to future repurposing of the space.
In addition to the structural legacy of the site, its environmental legacy and future are also embedded within the design. The center’s large exhibition hall features wood veneer partitions and adaptable freestanding furniture. Existing trees on the site have been kept, allowing the center to co-exist with and blend into the surrounding landscape. More subtle, playful nods to the intersection between tradition and modernity have also been incorporated. Outside the center, stone tiles and steel slags (reddish brown pebble-like objects which are a by-product of steel production) alternate and merge into newly planted grasses.
The Baoshan Exhibition Center serves multiple functions, acting as both a physical gateway to the larger site as well as an education, information, and advertising portal to various aspects of the project. But more importantly, it is both the past and the future of the site made manifest in form and function, respecting and revering its’ industrial legacy whilst simultaneously pulling it forward into modernity and beyond, reimagining the future of materials production within an eco-conscious design and production matrix.