A bold new showroom and tourist info centre for a Chinese property developer gives rise to a V-shaped architectural icon.
Ministry of Design clearly has a penchant for the sensational, regardless of whether it means pulling together outlandish retail displays on a shoestring budget or crafting plush, eye-catching interiors for a famed fine dining restaurant. For a recent project in the Chinese city of Tianjin, where the Singapore creative studio was commissioned to create a showroom and tourist information centre for Vanke, a prominent local real estate developer, MOD paid a fitting tribute to the company’s namesake by devising an unusual floor plan based on the naturally triangular site.
To drive the point home, the three glazed corners of the permanent pavilion vault defiantly skywards to dramatically underscore the letter ‘V’ while simultaneously unveiling doors that lead to the main gallery space and the tourist centre via independent passageways. Though connected within the layout, both spaces have been coherently designed to operate autonomously, depending on the occasion or event.
As for the decision to swathe the structure’s exterior in Corten steel, MOD design director Colin Seah explains that the building’s coastal setting was a strong motivating factor. “[The physical context] prompted us to explore a weathered materiality versus a more pristine materiality,” says Seah. “The choice of Corten steel on the façade seemed like rather a natural response. Although the panels are pre-weathered, they appear to be in constant flux because of the tone and texture of the steel.”
While the pavilion’s intrinsic sculptural qualities may give the overall design the impression of being slightly arbitrary, appearing as “an abstraction on the landscape”, Seah maintains that the floor plan and shape rose as a result of carefully studying the site and cultivating a clear understanding of its key contextual and programmatic perimetres. “The lifting of the building’s three edges addresses two entry points and one viewpoint,” he reveals. “The whole building as a form responds to this [purpose], as opposed to just making [conventional] windows and doors.”
Textural elements of the natural surroundings make a seamless transition indoors through MOD’s design; shimmering glass windows give a peek-a-boo glimpse into warm, timbre wood interiors fashioned to contrast with and neutralise the industrial feel of the Corten wrap. Comfortably fitted with white modern furniture, a lounge area tucked into the third corner of the pavilion comes as an apt addition and an extension of the gallery, lending itself as a relaxed space for discussions and entertaining clients. Pleasantly, it’s also just the place for nursing a cocktail or two by the elegantly sculpted bar while taking in sweeping views of the Dong Jiang Bay coastline. modonline.com
Published in the April/May issue of Surface Asia