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Warehouse Renovation

Three old warehouses, originally used to store fabrics, were given new life and a new skin. Archi-Union Architects, based in Shanghai, converted the center warehouse into an outdoor recreational space and lobby to serve the side warehouses which were converted into an exhibition hall and studio space. For the renovation the roof was left intact and the warehouses wrapped on three sides with glass shaded by a cinder block fabric.

The blocks angle according to a parametric program to control the amount of light that enters the building. The amount of light is determined mainly by the needs of the inner program. The resulting effect is of silk blowing in the wind to reference the building’s history. The choice of cinder blocks as a material adds to the historical references in the renovation.

This project shows the possibilities of parametric modeling, by its use in a renovation versus new construction. Parametric modeling can be used to make old, run-down spaces functional and more energy efficient, and it can be used with ordinary, everyday materials like cinder blocks.

Warehouse Renovation by Archi-Union Architects

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  1. This is a really interesting example. I completely agreed with you when you were talking about using the same, repetitious element and creating a varying facade by shifting that element slightly (rather than changing its properties). Here, I would think that you would be focused more on the locations of the bulges rather than on the chages of the openings of each block.

  2. It is interesting to see parametric modeling applied to a renovation project because they are usually seen in new design projects or installations with complex materials and construction technologies. To see it apply to a simple building with everyday material like the cinder blocks reveals the array of possibilities parametric modeling holds. It is interesting to further explore different patterns through the variations of element positions rather than alternations of the element’s properties.

  3. What interests me most about this project is the actual construction. How did they mark the locations and orientations for the masons to assemble? The computer model must necessarily be able to export data for this translation and that is the real success of this project.

  4. I really like this example for being so effective yet relatively low-tech. This project reminds me of Casa la Roca by Office dA, where hollow blocks also rotated to control porosity. However, here the effect is used throughout the envelope. I wonder how such a technique could best be used to enclose a space in a colder climate? I assume it would involve a lot of glazing within these walls.

  5. I think this is a really great example in it’s illustration that incredibly effective conditions can be created through the use of inexpensive, monochromatic, repetitive materials. It adds strength to the argument that dramatic architectural moments can be achieved through simple, subtle means without necessarily adding to a project’s material palette, color scheme, planar organization, and (therefore) budget.

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