Kokaistudios convert an old steel factory into a modular exhibition center in Shanghai

The Baoshan Waste-to-Energy Exhibition Center reveals a translucent polycarbonate skin that preserves the industrial memory of Baosteel and paves way for an ecological future.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Oct 12, 2020

A derelict steel factory in Baoshan, a suburban district of Shanghai, was recently transformed into an exhibition center by local firm, Kokaistudios. The adaptive reuse project, titled Baoshan Waste-to-Energy Exhibition Center is part of a larger scheme that aims to develop the 450,000 sqm site into a multi-faceted eco-industrial park, which includes a waste-to-energy power plant, museum, offices, and a mixed-use landscape consisting of wetlands and a park. 

Entrance to the Baoshan Waste-to-Energy Exhibition Center | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
Entrance to the Baoshan Waste-to-Energy Exhibition Center Image: Terrence Zhang

To showcase elements of the wider development to developers, clients and prospective tenants, the brief stated design of an exhibition space inside one of the few remaining yet long abandoned structures on site; most of these factory units have been demolished over the years.

The exhibition center before construction | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
The exhibition center before construction Image: Terrence Zhang
The exhibition center after construction | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
The exhibition center after construction Image: Terrence Zhang

“Although long abandoned, the 725 sqm building was nonetheless striking thanks to its historic character,” say the Shanghai-based architectural firm.

According to Kokaistudios, the site constraints presented both an opportunity as well as a responsibility to preserve the project’s significant industrial heritage. The studio applied a dry-build, modular intervention in which a fully independent polycarbonate envelope housing the exhibition space was embedded within the perimeter of the existing structure.

Concept Diagram | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
Concept Diagram Image: Courtesy of Kokaistudios

While only a few existing service staircases were demolished to avoid conflict with the new space, the architects have preserved the rest, which includes piping and rusted machinery.

The new lightweight and translucent skin of the exhibition space | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
The new lightweight and translucent skin of the exhibition space Image: Terrence Zhang

As a result, the new translucent and lightweight skin of the exhibition center reveals a welcoming contrast to the factory’s industrial identity.

  • Interiors of the exhibition space | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
    Interiors of the exhibition space Image: Terrence Zhang
  • Layers of transparency within the space | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
    Layers of transparency within the space Image: Terrence Zhang
  • Reception | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
    Reception Image: Terrence Zhang

The degree of translucency of the façade is such that it allows abundant natural light into the interiors but controlled views into the various spaces, both from within and outside the exhibition center. Adding to it, the material palette, which includes polycarbonate façade and roof, concrete tiles for flooring and stainless steel in bathrooms, contributes to the overall lightness and ecological focus of the space; the resulting cooler tones and calm aesthetic set an interesting contrast to the factory’s former red-hot blast furnaces.

  • The old and the new | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
    The old and the new Image: Terrence Zhang
  • The exhibition center standing out from the industrial fabric | Kokaistudios | Shanghai | STIRworld
    The exhibition center standing out from the industrial fabric Image: Terrence Zhang

“As a preliminary milestone of a multifaceted project, it was important to build flexibility at every level. In addition to affording fast construction, optimising both time and costs, the dry-build approach leaves open possibilities for future repurposing, or indeed, recycling,” explain the architects.

While during the day, the space turn inwards, at night, however, an intriguing white glow makes it stand out in the industrial setting. As intended, a considered approach to materials both inside and out has paved the way for the project to preserve its historic legacy, while at the same time opening it up to future roles.

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