On Friday, Hua Zhi Men Capital revealed the first images of MVRDV’s combined masterplan and architectural designs for a riverside leisure and culture district in Shanghai known as the West Bund Dream Center. With landscape design contributed by James Corner Field Operations and further architectural contributions by Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Atelier Deshaus, the plan will sustainably transform a collection of buildings of different styles and time periods. The design concept, centred on the movement of people, turns this existing district into a cohesive whole, generating a bustling and lively atmosphere on the banks of the Huangpu River.
Located to the south of Shanghai’s city centre, the project continues an expanding string of cultural projects emerging near the river on Shanghai’s West Bund. The site is currently home to two very different sets of buildings: a handful of large industrial structures represent the leftovers of the area’s history as a cement factory, while the in-between space is filled with constructions from the past decade, which were left unfinished after construction stopped in 2019.
“This project is an excellent demonstration of how the time between a building’s realisation and its renovation seems to get shorter and shorter”, says MVRDV founding partner Jacob van Rijs. “It used to be that we only transformed culturally significant buildings from earlier time periods; here we transform not only 20th-century industrial heritage, but even unfinished buildings from less than a decade ago. It goes to show how much value every city has in its existing structures that is ripe for designers to unlock.”
MVRDV’s masterplan for the site retains all of these existing structures, and takes a light-touch approach to renovating the more recent structures, saving as much of the existing materials as possible and minimising the embodied carbon involved in transforming the site. The older industrial buildings will receive a more bold treatment, highlighting the industrial heritage and distinguishing between old and new. Many of the industrial buildings will become cultural spaces, while hotels, restaurants, cafés, and retail will typically fill the newer structures. Taking inspiration from the site’s history, movement was a key principle of the design – in the past, the area was organised around the movement of raw materials for cement production; in the future, it will enable the free movement of people with just as much efficiency.
MVRDV will design the buildings in the southern half of the site – including the district’s central structure, a former warehouse that will become known as The River Factory. Today, this building is an imposing yet skeletal structure, comprising little more than two walls of concrete frames and an expansive steel-truss roof. Using minimalistic glass infill to highlight the rough, raw original structure, MVRDV’s design transforms the building into a combined leisure and culture destination hosts retail, cafés, and restaurants on the lower floors, and a large exhibition and event space on the top floor to take advantage of the voluminous, column-free space. On a mezzanine level above this, facing the river, a restaurant with an external terrace takes advantage of the views of the city.
Further images and information about the design will be released later this year.