Previously a place to manufacture large-scale ships, the Shipyard’s architecture utilizes industrial scales and dimensions, thus giving it a subliminal sense of scale. It contains an enormous, uninterrupted space reaching 200 meters in length, 45 meters in depth and up to 26 meters in height. Our design challenge was to create an architecture that could preserve the original structure’s monumentality.
We responded by creating two atriums along the north-south direction which are then linked by another east-west facing, 5-storey tall atrium. This compressed void evokes an ascending verticality which exasperates the encounter between the human scale and that of the Shipyard’s monumental structures. Here, the void not only exhibits the original columns and girders as an impressive spectacle, but also redefines them as the building’s core from which all events gravitate towards.
‘Void’ and ‘Structure’ tend to be antithetic concepts. Generally, structure recedes into the background in order to frame the emptiness of atriums. Instead, we deliberately inverted the relationship of the two by using the void to frame the raw, load-bearing structure built in the 1970s at the forefront.
In recent years, commercial spaces tend to conceal the unsightliness of building structures with decorative surfaces, thereby redefining the visual identity of buildings. No matter what structure the architecture uses, the glamorous interiors that ultimately constructs our spatial experience bears no relationship with it. As such, the world's commercial spaces have certainly become magnificent and glamorous, but also normalized and insipid.
Our approach in Shipyard 1862 serves as a counterpoint to this phenomenon of surface-based experience in commercial spaces. By positioning this unique structure at the most prominent location, we hope to recover the sense of depth in commercial environments.
Another critical consideration in adaptive re-use architecture is the rediscovery of a building’s materiality. Every architecture bears a unique texture that identifies it. I think materiality imprints a deeper impression than form. If I were asked to describe the form of a building, my memory of it would be vague most of the time. However, the texture of the building leaves a clear impression behind. Materiality transcends beyond the visual experience, as it requires all five senses of the human body to engage it, to remember it.
The materiality of this old shipyard bears a particularly colorful and textural character. The design challenge for this project is to capture the material essence of the original brick walls. The shades and texture of bricks manufactured today tend to be very homogeneous, which makes it hard to emulate the rough and uneven textures of the shipyard’s weathered brick walls. Our design proposal, a permeable brick wall, suspends a randomly arranged pattern using 4 types of colored bricks along stainless steel wire fixtures (Figure, Node). The porosity of the design recalls the rough, weathered and particle-like qualities of the original wall.
The process of handmade bricks in the past have inadvertently generated flaws and defects. Although there is no way to recreate those qualities with standard building technique alone, only by reconsidering what consists of imperfection means can we rediscover its essence in the contemporary world.