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MVRDV as Architects

With floor area at a premium in Hong Kong MVRDV aimed to create an office space which offered maximum attractiveness and perceived spaciousness in order to provide as pleasant working environment as possible. The building is stripped down to its beautifully raw and butch primary structure, with all unnecessary trimmings being taken out. Infill was only then added to the building in the form of white paint, glass and stainless steel in order to maintain and highlight the purity of the bare structure. Old and new are easily distinguished, whilst the inner workings of the building are on display for all to see. But how to create an office environment that also brings with it the purity and simplicity of the building design? The answer, glass tables, shelves, floors, speakers, computers, walls – an entirely glass office, free from visible clutter. The model office stands as an example for tenants to install in their work spaces if they desire. “We are moving into a transparent society, businesses are becoming more open with the public, and people care more about what goes on behind closed doors. In that way, a clear workspace leaves nothing questionable, nothing hidden; it generates trust.” Tells MVRDV co-founder Winy Maas, “But also it is an opportunity for the building to become a reminder of the industrial history of the neighbourhood, monumentalised in a casing of glass.” 133 Wai Yip Street takes a new approach to development in Hong Kong, reusing the existing building and reinforcing the area’s original character rather than wiping the slate clean with solely new builds. The goal was to expose the inner workings of the building including the structure and installations, but not only this, to show the free-flow movement within the building, the inner-workings of the companies inside and the technical components which allow the office to function. Glass lifts in glass shafts reveal everyone’s movements up and down the building; even the fire-stairs are encased in fire-resistant glass. The lower floors reactivate the public domain through adding a different programme. The ground floor comprises of retail, whilst the two floors above this are reserved for restaurants. A rooftop space, as well as balconies on each floor, gives residents of the building access to the outside; ideal locations to appreciate the views out onto the waterfront. The former building closed itself off from the street behind with rendered and tiled concrete walls and tiny windows. In order to humanise the surrounding area and create a more approachable environment on all sides, the rear façade has been stripped back and replaced with glazing. Through doing this the communal areas and vertical circulation of the building are exposed, giving pedestrians an insight into the happenings of each office and the movement of those inside. The previously dark and labyrinth-like insides have been completely stripped out to open up the programme and allow light to flow through the building. Communal areas, services and vertical circulation have been moved towards the rear of the building. The floor plan now allows for each floor to either be occupied by one tenant, or for them to be separated into as much as four separate work spaces through the addition of light, glazed infill. Despite large amounts of glass elements, the building has a 17% lower annual energy consumption as well as a 15% lower peak electricity demand compared to average offices in Hong Kong. MVRDV began work on the project in April 2013 and have since worked in partnership with co-architects Arch-Innovativ. The Glass Office is, for now, MVRDV’s last project in an ongoing exploration into the alternative uses of glass in architecture. Previous projects include: the Markthal, with 40 x 40 metre windows; glass farm, with printed glass as a monument to local history; Crystal Houses in which a historical façade was constructed out of Venetian glass bricks; and the Infinity Kitchen at this year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice, that offered a provokingly anti-cyclic vision to the theme “reporting from the front”, in which the celebration of food plays a vital role.

27-Mar-2014 GAW Capital and MVRDV have started construction on the Cheung Fai building in Hong Kong which transforms a former warehouse into offices for creative companies. The building with a surface of 18.000 m² is situated at Kwun Tong waterfront in Hong Kong’s new designated business area of East Kowloon. The transformation aims to create a luxurious loft style working environment by replacing everything but the primary concrete structure of the building with glass and stainless steel infill, exposing the building’s infrastructure. Completion is scheduled for September 2015.

The conversion of Cheung Fai building is one of the pioneer projects in Kwun Tong district of East Kowloon, a former industrial area which is currently being redeveloped to become one of Hong Kong’s newest business center. The 14-storey building occupies a corner site on Wai Yip Street offering views to Victoria Harbor and the future Kai Tak ferry terminal.

In 2013 project developer GAW Capital commissioned MVRDV to convert the former warehouse into offices for a maximum of 37 units with shops and parking on the ground floor and restaurants on the first and second floor. The conversion is restricted to the existing envelope by local building regulations. In order to create attractive, yet affordable and well lit office space within the 36.5m deep floor plan, the design opted for an open, loft style environment which exposes the raw structure complemented with glass-only finishes: the Glass Office.

The building is stripped down to its primary structure; glass is inserted between columns and beams as floor and ceiling finishes, partitions and doors, clearly distinguishing old and new, showing how the building works right down to the installations. The service core is conceived as a linear, transparent block between offices and communal space executed in 1-hour fire rated glass allowing light to enter the office space.

All non-loadbearing façade elements are replaced by glass for the maximum amount of light reaching the interior; all structural façade elements are executed in white coated concrete. The top floor becomes a communal terrace for breaks and informal meetings with magnificent views. The rear façade currently faces a disused service alley. By being the first to upgrade it the same way as the front façade, the objective is to eventually turn the alley into usable attractive public space, once more buildings on Wai Yip Street have been converted. The Cheung Fai Building transformation is MVRDV’s first realization in Hong Kong. MVRDV collaborates with local architect Raymond Chan Surveyors Ltd., structural advisors AC Technik (HK) Ltd., E & M advisors VIGOR Engineering Consultants Ltd, property managers CBRE and cost advisor Rider Levett Bucknall.

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