David Chipperfield Architects revives an old industrial area in China as mixed-use district

The Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan hosts a Grand Theatre, hotel complex, new public plazas, and a performing arts campus, paying tribute to industrial brick structures in Jingdezhen.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Feb 25, 2022

In recent years, the adaptive reuse of decommissioned industrial buildings has gained significant attention in the architectural community across most parts of the world. Within China - the world’s most populous nation - this move is exemplified in new projects such as the Jinan Bocuiminghu Textile Culture and Arts Exhibition Hall, Masquerade photography studio, and the Moments Photography Base. On a larger scale, the rehabilitation of historic urban quarters - particularly former industrial areas - is a trend that has also picked up of late with the current condemnation of urban sprawl as well as the influx of greater leanings towards sustainable design and heritage conservation within the domain of urban development. With similar themes in mind, the city of Jingdezhen in China’s Jiangxi Province had enlisted British architecture practice David Chipperfield Architects back in 2018 to formulate a master plan that would redevelop one of its more prominent urban locales featuring numerous industrial facilities formerly dedicated to porcelain production. Situated in proximity to the urban centre, the district had come to be regarded as part of the city’s heritage, with exposed brick factories that harkened back to a bygone era in the settlement’s history.

Master Plan | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
Master Plan Image: © David Chipperfield Architects

Realising the importance of these structures and their role in shaping the neighbourhood's identity, the firm - headed by acclaimed British architect David Chipperfield, felt it was essential to preserve, refurbish, and integrate them into the new urban quarter. For this purpose, the design team envisioned a two-phase intervention that would reshape the nature of the site towards a more contemporary identity. Implemented over a four-year period concluding in 2022, the project would conserve and reuse existing buildings while also adding new structures that would complement the existing urban grain.

The project entailed the redevelopment of a historic industrial quarter in Jingdezhen, China, into a new cultural district | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
The project entailed the redevelopment of a historic industrial quarter in Jingdezhen, China, into a new cultural district Image: © Fangfang Tian

As per the architects, the first stage comprised the refurbishment of buildings towards the western portion of the site, to serve new roles such as museums, porcelain shops, and a ceramics market - creating a thriving public space that still held connections to its industrial heritage. Next, the eastern part of the urban quarter would become home to an educational campus centred on music and the performing arts, supplemented by venues, institutions, and other infrastructure. Shops, residential buildings, and student accommodation were also incorporated into the master plan in order to support the new functions of the industrial structures, with the music academy at the southern end of the new landmark development. In order to further connect old structures to the vibrant public space running throughout the site, the ground levels of these factory buildings were opened up to the plaza.

A new pedestrian promenade and boulevard were incorporated into the plan to link all the new buildings along the site | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
A new pedestrian promenade and boulevard were incorporated into the plan to link all the new buildings along the site Image: © Fangfang Tian

To create a new path through the neighbourhood’s metamorphosis, the architects employed a pedestrian promenade cutting through the centre of the production site, coupled with a boulevard to its west, to open up circulation through the district in the north-south direction. This measure was augmented by the addition of new public buildings along its course. In essence, the three main arms of the project running along this new route can be segregated into the Grand Theatre with two performance venues to its north, the hotel complex and library to the south along the boulevard, and finally, the music academy and performing arts campus to round off the ensemble.

The Grand Theatre

  • The Grand Theatre is a landmark new structure containing an opera house and a black box theatre enveloped by a curving brick façade | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    The Grand Theatre is a landmark new structure containing an opera house and a black box theatre enveloped by a curving brick façade Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • Mushrooming columns support the building’s vast concrete roof | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    Mushrooming columns support the building’s vast concrete roof Image: © Fangfang Tian

Settled along the northern edge of the development facing the western boulevard, the Grand Theatre is a new presence on the premises - a highlight of the public space in this part of the site. Realised as a monumental, curving edifice in exposed brick, the building pays heed to the traditional materiality of the industrial development in its vicinity, and houses a classical opera house as well as a black box theatre as part of its functional program. These two spaces are accessed via a vast foyer with mushroomed columns that support the concrete architecture of the soaring roof both internally and externally, unifying the design language while replicating the visual qualities of trees from the neighbouring public plaza.

  • The grand foyer also features mushroom-shaped columns, bordered by glazed openings that visually link it to the bustling external streetscape | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    The grand foyer also features mushroom-shaped columns, bordered by glazed openings that visually link it to the bustling external streetscape Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • Projecting into the foyer, the horseshoe-shaped form of the opera house is clad in timber | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    Projecting into the foyer, the horseshoe-shaped form of the opera house is clad in timber Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • Walnut veneer lines the walls of the opera house, which possesses a capacity of 1200 | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    Walnut veneer lines the walls of the opera house, which possesses a capacity of 1200 Image: © Fangfang Tian

Glazed walls bring the bustle of the external streetscape inwards, as the horseshoe-shaped volume of the opera house projects into the space, with a gallery and cloak room clad in timber. The interior design of the opera house is defined by walnut veneer-lined walls, while the space itself contains three balconies and possesses an overall capacity of 1200. Externally, its horseshoe shape projects above the grand foyer as a smooth curving brick mass that lends a landmark character to the entire structure. Alternatively, the black box theatre hosts a flexible and mobile stage that lends itself to a variety of purposes. With walls clad entirely in black wood, the space can also be opened up to the public plaza outside to hold open-air concerts.

Hotel Complex

  • The Hotel Complex at the heart of the development channels the brick architecture of nearby factory buildings | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    The Hotel Complex at the heart of the development channels the brick architecture of nearby factory buildings Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • This section of the project aims to seamlessly integrate itself into the industrial quarter | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    This section of the project aims to seamlessly integrate itself into the industrial quarter Image: © Fangfang Tian

Channelling the rhythmic brick architecture of the industrial buildings that had previously defined its urban surroundings, the hotel complex is placed at the heart of the site, between the Grand Theatre to the north and the campus to its south. As the centrepiece of Jingdezhen’s new cultural district, this hospitality design venture has been articulated as a series of four separate blocks, containing a four-star hotel, a five star-hotel, as well as an event venue holding prestigious function rooms.

  • Four blocks with rhythmic brick façades are connected via a steel structure within the complex | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    Four blocks with rhythmic brick façades are connected via a steel structure within the complex Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • Each block contains a landscaped courtyard with a garden | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
    Each block contains a landscaped courtyard with a garden Image: © Fangfang Tian

Merging seamlessly into the industrial quarter by virtue of the abundance of exposed brick in their façade designs, the blocks are connected at the ground level by a light steel structure that frames common outdoor areas. Staggered brick columns and perforated brick balustrades introduce movement to the understated faces of the buildings. All three structures contain an internal courtyard featuring landscape design, visible from adjoining corridors through perforated brick walls. Additionally, an old dormitory from the 1960s was refurbished to support the hotel as an apartment building.

Academy of Music

The new academy of music is housed within a pair of renovated factory buildings that had formerly been devoted to the production of ceramics | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
The new academy of music is housed within a pair of renovated factory buildings that had formerly been devoted to the production of ceramics Image: © ATCHAIN

Accommodated within a pair of converted ceramic factory buildings from the 20th century, the new academy of music forms a lively new spectacle towards the relatively newer southern wing of the development. The two buildings were renovated and upgraded for this purpose - a process that included the replacement of corrugated metal roofs with acoustically superior tiles, as well as the repair of their perforated masonry and windows in accordance with original materials and details. As per the architects, this approach preserves the industrial-style ambience of the campus, ensuring that the district’s history remains intact. The larger northern block along the layout is home to a concert hall, serving as the campus' focal point. Capable of seating 350 attendees, the venue has been conceptualised as a recessed nest with abundant natural light and views of its context, beneath a new roof structure with a larger volume, devised to meet concert requirements. 

Maple veneer, pine wood, and asphalt maintain the warehouse-style aesthetic of interior spaces | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
Maple veneer, pine wood, and asphalt maintain the warehouse-style aesthetic of interior spaces Image: © ATCHAIN

At the centre of the building is an airy foyer, with service facilities and practice rooms placed inside stacked wooden cubes. Access to the southern building can be availed via a covered passage with a steel girder-framed glass roof. This second block features a notable historic roof assembly made of wooden trunks and ropes, which have been transferred to a new steel structure as part of the renovation. Maple veneer, pine wood, and asphalt maintain the warehouse-style aesthetic of the space, which also features a new basement level occupied by technical rooms and recording studios.

Service facilities and practice rooms are located within stacked wooden cubes | Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan | David Chipperfield Architects | STIRworld
Service facilities and practice rooms are located within stacked wooden cubes Image: © ATCHAIN

On viewing the immense scope and challenges of the urban design venture, David Chipperfield Architects' endeavour hinged on bridging the vocabularies of contemporary and traditional architecture in the region while preserving the spirit and functionality of this industrial quarter in Jingdezhen. Their efforts have yielded an exciting new urban district that harnesses the power of adaptive reuse and functional diversity to rejuvenate a once forgotten development, ushering it into the modern era.

Project Details

Name: Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan
Location: Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, China
Gross Site Area: 265,000 sqm
Gross Floor Area: 42,400 sqm (Grand Theatre), 91,700 sqm (Hotel Complex), 8,300 sqm (Academy of Music)
Timeline: 2018-2022
Client: Jingdezhen Ceramic Culture Tourism Group
Architect: David Chipperfield Architects Berlin & Shanghai
Partners: David Chipperfield, Martin Reichert, Alexander Schwarz (Design lead)
Master Plan Project Architect: Ulrike Eberhardt, Franziska Rusch
Master Plan Project Team: Noriyuki Sawaya, Kawalpreet Singh
Grand Theatre Project Architect: Ulrike Eberhardt (Concept Design to Construction Documentation Review), Xu Yang (Artistic Site Supervision)
Grand Theatre Project Team: Martina Betzold, Alexander Bellmann, Sandra García Bornholt, Jinhui Huang, Kristin Karig, Levan Kiknavelidze, Anke Lawrence, Hubert Pawela, Maxi Reschke, Julijana Steimle, Nils Stelter
Hotel Complex Project Architect: Ulrike Eberhardt (Concept Design), Anke Lawrence (Concept Design), Xu Yang (Schematic Design to Artistic Site Supervision)
Hotel Complex Project Team: Fang Cui, Stefano Didaniel, Weimiao Li, Rongxing Lin, Haoran Lyu, Rosa Piepoli, Juliane Schwarz, Ziyang Xu, Hanyu Zheng
Academy of Music Project Architect: Ulrike Eberhardt (Concept Design and Schematic Design), Urs Vogt (Concept Design and Schematic Design), Xu Yang (Construction Documentation Review and Artistic Site Supervision)
Academy of Music Project Team: Jinhui Huang, Kristin Karig, Cyril Kriwan, Annalisa Massari, Weimiao Li, Rongxing Lin, Haoran Lyu, Rosa Piepoli, Franziska Rusch, Juliane Schwarz
Graphics and Visualisation: Konrad Basan, Kerstin Bigalke, Dalia Liksaite, Ken Polster, David Wegner
Local Design Institute: ISA Architecture, Shanghai
Landscape Architect: Possibilism Design Studio, Shanghai (Concept Design to Design Development), ISA Architecture,Shanghai (Construction Documentation to Site Supervision)
Acoustical Consultant: Kahle Acoustics, Brussels
Lighting Design: Leox, Shanghai

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