Chinese Academy of Sciences IOT Center, Jiading, Shanghai, China
Skew Collaborative

Design Team: Eunice Seng, Koon Wee, Darren Zhou (Principals)

Catherine Wu, Jose Angel Remon, Chris Zhou, Sybren Boomsma, Iris Xu, Crystal Yiu, Zhang Yue, Melody Song (Design Team) 

The site for this exhibition center and laboratories was a former Soviet-designed industrial cluster sitting amongst a heavily wooded compound. The architecture of this adaptive-reuse project is predicated on strategic insertions of new forms and voids within the structural framework of the original complex. The dialogue between the new and the old was not just an aesthetic exercise, but one that is concerned with an enhancement of energy performance, and the engagement of the existing landscape of mature camphor and pine trees. 

The biggest contribution to sustainability was the retention of most of the original fabric, whilst fulfilling the new programmatic needs of multiple but related departments. Bridge buildings were inserted to link up the originally disparate blocks, while simultaneously creating new courtyards. Surgical incisions were introduced to enhance natural daylighting, views, ventilation, and circulation between the spaces. These newly opened up spaces created outdoor terraces that became social attractors used by the workers. 

The existing trees were one of the highlights of the site, and the client requested that no mature tree was to be harmed during and after construction. Care was taken to weave the new architecture through the dense foliage without destroying a single tree. Terraces at the level of the tree crowns were created to allow closer relations between the end users and nature. 

Despite the lush foliage, the original fenestration monotonously framed views to the exterior. The redesign sought to intensify the experience of nature as one traverses the building. A new window organization was designed to echo the rhythm of the trees, while providing the user with multiple ways of viewing nature – through grouped windows, long vertical strip windows, large framed openings etc. Sufficient levels of light were ensured whilst bringing a more humane scale to the workplace. In addition, the thermal envelope was drastically improved through the reduction in glazing, and the replacement of the original windows with insulated glazing and seals. 

The façade, through its highly articulated tectonic, literally increases the contact between building and landscape, interior and exterior. At the same time, new ventilated corridors permit natural air circulation and light to enter the long spaces, physically bringing the outdoors in through a transition zone, while reducing the overall energy load of the complex.

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