Renovation of the 809 Arsenal Relics

Renovation of the 809 Arsenal Relics

3andwich Design / He Wei Studio
Yichang City, Hubei Province, China | View Map
Project Year
© Yilong Zhao

Renovation of the 809 Arsenal Relics

3andwich Design / He Wei Studio as Architectural, Interior design, Landscape conception design

Background and original appearance: abandoned for a long time, but with great potential

The 809 factory is located in Xialao Creek, the suburb of Yichang City, Hubei Province, China, which is about 30 minutes’ drive from downtown. Once a military factory, it was gradually shut down and abandoned in the 1990s. The project covers an area of about 3 hectares and a construction area of about 13000 square meters. The new function is a resort hotel and parent-child activity center. The purpose of the project is to protect and show the original appearance of the buildings and form a new use function through the transformation and reuse of the abandoned factory, so as to revive the abandoned industrial facilities and help those enter the contemporary life.


The 809 factory is located in a canyon with karst landform, large site height difference and complex geological conditions. The canyon is named Xialao Creek, with beautiful and comfortable environment. It is one of the best summer resorts for Yichang citizens. There are streams in the canyon, with water flowing all year round, and the water quality is excellent, suitable for swimming and leisure. Before the renovation, there had been a large number of farmhouses and small resorts in the area. The 809 factory is located in the middle part of Xialao Creek, which is closely related to the stream and has a good natural environment and industrial foundation.


The 809 factory used to be an important military factory in the western region, mainly producing gas masks. Before the transformation, the factory had been shut down for a long time, during which it was also rented to private enterprises. All the machinery in the plant has been removed, leaving only the building itself. In the survey, architects found that the existing buildings are mainly divided into three categories: workshops with large space span, equipment rooms with medium scale, such as boiler house, and dormitories and office buildings with small space scale. The original building construction period is from 1950s to 1970s, mainly in the form of brick concrete precast floor structure.


The construction technology includes rubble masonry, brick wall, precast concrete floor. Most of them are not in line with the current building laws and regulations, and need to be strengthened and reprocessed. But on the other hand, it is these construction traces in different periods that produce great cultural value, reflecting the historical memory and architectural cultural value of the old third line factory in that period. The design needs to retain most of the facade of the original building, but also to meet the new use and regulatory requirements, which brings great difficulties to the design.


Design principles and ideas:
Through the reconstruction of the old third-front factory site, the design hopes to give new life to the space and revive it from the abandoned state. Under the dual function of new business form and new space, the owners and architects hope to reconstruct a new 809 factory. After reconstruction, it will become the first choice of Yichang citizens for short-term vacation, and provide a delicate living place with taste and tonality for the city.


The design starts from the site planning, considers the integration of architecture, interior, landscape and lighting, retains the industrial characteristics and historical information of the original building to the maximum extent, and carries out transformation and reuse.First of all, the design protected the industrial heritages and preserved the original appearance of the buildings through structural reinforcement and other measures.


After that, the original building spaces were selectively used to implant new functions, incl. changing the original dormitory into hotel rooms, the original boiler-house into auditorium, the original office building and equipment rooms into restaurant, reception center, etc. On this basis, new public buildings are set up at important nodes of the site to form space and visual anchor points, such as hotel lobby, book bar at the entrance of the area, tea bar at the top of the cliff, and so on. The new building and the old building are deliberately distinguished in form and material, forming a dramatic dialogue relationship, and clearly indicating the spatial characteristics and architectural language of the two different historical stages.


The main trees in the site are reserved, and the construction of new buildings avoided the trees, forming a symbiotic relationship with the trees. The lighting treatment at night continues the thinking of architectural design, which, based on the overall tranquility, focuses on the treatment of building nodes. 3000K warm white light is used in guest room area while 4000K neutral white light in public area.


Guest rooms: traffic arrangement and space reorganization
The guest room is transformed from the dormitory of the original factory. There are 4 original dormitories, which are arranged in parallel from north to south. Their construction dates are not completely the same, which brings great uncertainty to the reconstruction. First of all, the four buildings are not the same in structure. There are twenty-four brick walls, hollow brick walls and gravel filled walls, and the floor slab is prefabricated trough slab. In addition, there are as many as ten kinds of room layout. Based on making full use of the original physical space, how to meet the needs of hotel rooms, to meet the current norms, and to meet the safety requirements, are the difficulty and pain of this part of the design work.


For the two dormitories close to the hillside in the East, the original traffic organization mode is retained in the design, that is, the vertical traffic in the middle of the building and the external corridor in the west of the building; then, in the connection part of the two buildings, some dormitory rooms are removed, vertical stairs and electric ladders are added, and public space is removed. The dormitory building on the south side was transformed into a Youth Hostel, while the dormitory building on the north side was transformed into standard guest rooms. On the one hand, such treatment is based on the number of rooms, on the other hand, because these two buildings do not have a broad vision, they are positioned as affordable rooms.


The two dormitories on the west side have a wide view to the West and can see the peaks opposite the streams and canyons, which have a high market value. However, the horizontal traffic of the original building is located on the west side, which is in conflict with the view surface of the future guest rooms.


Therefore, the architect adjusted the new traffic to the east side of the building, and set up new stairs, elevators and external corridors. The original corridors have been demolished and new balconies have been built to increase the indoor area and provide customers with a more comfortable viewing experience. The rooms on the north side are standard rooms, and the balconies are asymmetric trapezoid, in groups of two, forming a rhythmic facade; the rooms on the south side are suites, with balconies alternately distributed, changing the original dormitory building's rigid facade. The white part of the new building, in contrast to the red brick and rubble of the original building, shows the characteristics of different periods.


First of all, the structure of the guest rooms has been strengthened, and toilets are added, to meet the safety and basic functional requirements of the hotel. In order to reflect the historical information of the old third line factory, the roofs of some rooms retain the original slot boards, and the wall surfaces also expose part of the original wall surfaces at specific locations. Because the overall positioning of the hotel does not belong to luxury hotel, it is simple in decoration and furniture selection, and industrial style products deliberately are chosen, echoing the theme of the whole region.


Lobby: using body blocks to create regional signs
The lobby of the hotel is newly built. It is located between the four guest buildings and the western restaurant, which acts as a barrier and transformation between public areas and private areas. The building is divided into two layers, which are composed of four building blocks interpenetrating with each other. The first floor is the lobby of the hotel, including the functions of front desk, waiting area and so on. Through the orange lounge, the lobby space is connected with the third floor of the western restaurant. On the second floor is the circular exhibition hall, where activities and exhibitions can be held. From the first floor to the second floor, you can not only take the indoor stairs, but also use the outdoor large stairs.


According to architects, the new lobby should be the landmark of the new 809. It needs to be clearly captured from a distance and attract guests into the new 809 area. In order to achieve this goal, the architecture is deliberately designed with visual tension: super scale geometric blocks interpenetrate with each other, different materials and strong colors collide, forming a visual and sensory experience different from daily life.


The irregular form of the first floor lobby is not only related to the site topography, but also avoids the original trees in the space. The circular exhibition hall on the second floor adopts the full glass curtain wall, which is "flying" over the first floor, providing users with a 360 degree view. The crooked lounge is inserted into the building block of the western restaurant in the south, and lifted from the concrete steep ridge in the north, forming a strong momentum. Its elevation is the same as that of the western restaurant on the third floor, which plays the traffic function of connecting the lobby and the early restaurant.


The outer skin of the lounge is covered with orange metal mesh, and the interior is also covered with orange, which emphasizes the building block and subverts the user's senses. The slanting outdoor staircase is wrapped by dark brown metal skin, which becomes a square tube leading into the sky. The round holes on the skin endow the interior with rich light and shadow effects, creating a sense of "unreality". All these are different from the old third-front style of the original 809 factory. The new and old buildings form a strong visual hedge, but it is precisely because of this hedge that the old ones are older and the new ones are newer.


In order to realize the special form of lobby architecture, architects and structural engineers have made great efforts. The whole building is of steel structure. In order to get a transparent circular exhibition gallery as much as possible and ensure the indoor comfort of the first floor building, the circular exhibition hall is supported by three groups of giant steel columns, which are arranged at 120 degrees, hidden in the service-oriented space and the lounge space of the lobby respectively, and cannot be detected from the outside. The circular exhibition hall is supported by 9 sets of steel columns, which is placed on the first floor like a circular "box". The oblique large ladder and the tube surrounding it are like a huge square column which is inserted in the ring obliquely, playing a traffic connection of different elevations.


The four building blocks seem to rely on each other for stacking, but in fact, the structure is independent and self-contained, which ensures the safety of the building structure. The complex height difference, uncertain geological conditions (karst landform), the avoidance of the adjacent old building foundation and the reservation of the original trees in the site all brought great challenges to the project implementation process. Architects, structural engineers and construction units faced and overcome these problems one by one, and finally completed the construction and expression of the complex building shape.


Restaurants and multi-functional hall: making the best of the situation and being a supporting role
In addition to the guest rooms transformed from dormitories, the new lobby and exhibition hall, the Chinese restaurant and multi-functional hall of the hotel are also transformed from the existing space of the original 809 factory. Adhering to the general principle of regional design, that is, under the condition of retaining the appearance information of the original third-front factory building, the internal space of the building is transformed to have new functions, both Chinese restaurants and multi-functional halls try to use the original buildings to form a new and old dialogue.


The western restaurant / breakfast restaurant is located on the side of the lobby. There was a 3-story office building on the original site. The new building is built on the base of the old building. The appearance of the building keeps the main features of the old building, and modern expression is integrated into the treatment of doors, windows and details. The indoor space is arranged according to the new use function: the first floor is a coffee shop, the second floor a chess and card room, and the third floora western restaurant / breakfast restaurant.


On the whole, several restaurants and multi-functional halls are relatively low-key in appearance: not displaying, but as a supporting role. Together with the guest rooms, they form the "foundation base" around the main building of the lobby, serving the new 809 area.


The 809 factory is a miniature of the historic Third-Front arsenals in Western China. In 1950-60's, a large number of military factories were built in Western China, most of them are brick and stone structures, reflecting the characteristics of industrial buildings in Western China in a specific era. With the development of China's economy and industrial transformation in the 1990s, most of these arsenals have been shut down and abandoned, but as a historical record, the architecture still has cultural value. This case is an attempt to maximize the activation of such industrial remains on the basis of protecting historical information.


After the transformation of China's former industrial relics, the main functions are cultural industrial parks and art parks. However, such functions are not applicable to the Industrial Relics in non-urban areas of China’s western regions. The new function of this case is a resort hotel, which is a special one in the transformation of Chinese factories in recent years, which is of great innovative significance for the reuse of Industrial relics in Western China.

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