MVRDV’s Tainan Spring transforms a vacant historic mall into an ‘urban lagoon’ in Taiwan

The Dutch architectural firm presents a design solution for unused, urban spaces with Tainan Spring’s masterplan, which is replete with water bodies and local plant varieties.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Mar 18, 2020

MVRDV recently completed the public space design transformation called Tainan Spring, in southern Taiwan, renewing the intended purpose of the abandoned China Town Mall built atop the old harbour, next to the Tainan Canal. The Netherlands- based architectural firm converted the former city-centre shopping mall into an ‘urban lagoon’, complete with a resplendent water body and verdant plantations that will soon turn into a lush jungle.

Commissioned by Tainan City Government’s Urban Development Bureau, Tainan Spring flushes the city of Tainan with its waterfront, and with nature at large. The project stands testament to circular design (a continued use of resources) by presenting a solution for unused urban areas, in tandem with protecting the site’s history.

  • Tainan Spring sees the transformation of the abandoned China Town Mall into an urban lagoon | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
    Tainan Spring sees the transformation of the abandoned China Town Mall into an urban lagoon Image Credit: Daria Scagliola, Courtesy of MVRDV
  • In Tainan Spring, people can bathe in the overgrown remains of a shopping mall | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
    In Tainan Spring, people can bathe in the overgrown remains of a shopping mall Image Credit: Daria Scagliola, Courtesy of MVRDV

The completed masterplan for Tainan Spring includes a new public square east of the Tainan Canal, an urban pool, improved public pathways, and traffic reduction along with a surplus of local greenery. The new public square forms a fresh landscape strategy, unifying the former China Town mall’s site and a kilometre-long stretch of the city’s Haian Road. “Tainan Spring shows what solutions are possible for unused shopping malls now that online shopping is supplanting physical stores,” explains the MVRDV team.

  • MVRDV’s visualization of Tainan Spring – aerial view | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
    MVRDV’s visualization of Tainan Spring – aerial view Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Tainan Spring ‘urban lagoon’ as envisioned by MVRDV | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
    Tainan Spring ‘urban lagoon’ as envisioned by MVRDV Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Aerial view of Tainan Spring | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
    Aerial view of Tainan Spring Image Credit: Daria Scagliola, Courtesy of MVRDV
  • The new public square forms a fresh landscape strategy, unifying the former China Town mall’s site and a kilometre-long stretch of the city’s Haian Road | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
    The new public square forms a fresh landscape strategy, unifying the former China Town mall’s site and a kilometre-long stretch of the city’s Haian Road Image Credit: Daria Scagliola, Courtesy of MVRDV

The new design sees a creative conversion of the historic mall’s underground parking level into a sunken public plaza, replete with a dazzling urban pool and local plants, and enveloped by a shadowed arcade. The public pool’s water level will vary according to the passing seasons, making it an ideal gathering spot throughout the year. The space also hosts a performance stage, playgrounds and seating areas, “while the artful deconstruction of the building’s concrete frame has left a number of follies that can in due course be converted to shops, kiosks, and other amenities,” shares the official press statement.

The public pool’s water level will vary according to passing seasons | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
The public pool’s water level will vary according to passing seasons Image Credit: Daria Scagliola, Courtesy of MVRDV
A part of the structure’s second basement level has been given a glass floor, which lends visitors an understanding of the site’s history, a way of preserving Tainan’s heritage, without demolishing the whole structure. With the glass floor, the water running through green islands, and remnants of the old structure, Tainan Spring resembles the ruins of Rome, done so intentionally by the designers.
The new design sees a creative conversion of the historic mall’s underground parking level into a sunken public plaza | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
The new design sees a creative conversion of the historic mall’s underground parking level into a sunken public plaza Image Credit: Daria Scagliola, Courtesy of MVRDV

“In Tainan Spring, people can bathe in the overgrown remains of a shopping mall. Children will soon be swimming in the ruins of the past – how fantastic is that?” says Winy Maas, the founding partner of MVRDV. “Inspired by the history of the city, both the original jungle and the water were important sources of inspiration. Tainan is a very grey city. With the reintroduction of the jungle to every place that was possible, the city is reintegrating into the surrounding landscape. The reintroduction of greenery was an important thread in our master plan. We mixed local plant species so that they mimic the natural landscape east of Tainan. I think the city will benefit greatly from this.”

Tainan Spring also hosts a performance stage, playgrounds and seating areas | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
Tainan Spring also hosts a performance stage, playgrounds and seating areas Image Credit: Daria Scagliola, Courtesy of MVRDV

Haian Road’s renovation, which was finished last year, has visibly reduced traffic, and brought a new life to Tainan’s most vital streets. The different paving patterns accumulated over the years has been replaced with a single concrete tile surface, in tandem with planting abundant greens everywhere. Large ventilation shafts jutting into the public space have been painted a uniform colour to provide visual relief. The city then commisioned local artists to decorate these structures.

Water and reintroduction of greens form key design elements of the Tainan Spring masterplan project | MVRDV’s Tainan Spring is an urban lagoon in Tainan, Taiwan | STIRworld
Water and reintroduction of greens form key design elements of the Tainan Spring masterplan project Image Credit: Daria Scagliola, Courtesy of MVRDV

While the construction is complete, the entire masterplan is likely take around three years to be realised fully. Until then, the freshly planted flowerbeds and greens will imperceptibly grow into a lush Eden for the city of Tainan.

Project Details

Name: Tainan Spring
Location: Tainan, Taiwan
Architect: MVRDV
Principal in charge: Winy Maas
Partner: Wenchian Shi, Jeroen Zuidgeest
Project coordinator: Hui-Hsin Liao
Design team: Hui-Hsin Liao, Angel Sanchez Navarro, Stephan Boon, Xiaoting Chen, Andrea Anselmo, Yi Chien Liao, Zuliandi Azli, Olivier Sobels, Dong Min Lee, Chi Yi Liao
Copyright: Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries
Partners: Local architects - LLJ Architects, sustainability/landscape and urban designers - The Urbanists Collaborative, structural engineers consultant -  Evergreat Associates , SE., Lighting designer - LHLD Lighting Design, MEP engineers - Frontier Tech Institute, General Contractor - Yong-Ji Construction co. Ltd.

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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