Cloning for the greater good

The 35-meter AP2 hangar – a towering relic of Dunkirk’s once powerful naval industry – now houses the contemporary art center of the French Nord-Pas de Calais region. Intrigued by this naval monument, locally known as “the Cathedral,” architects Lacaton & Vassal decided to ignore their original brief – which asked them to fill, or rather kill, the dramatic space with several floors of exhibitions – in favor of an attached clone constructed from contemporary materials. Their smart blend of concrete structure and modular prefab elements even undercut the project’s tight budget, despite including all of the required functions, as well as a few welcome extras, in their new doppelganger structure – and leaving the whole AP2 for large exhibits, fairs, and events.

Making the most from what is available

When [AC-CA] called for submissions for a Hong Kong parking tower, the competition’s winners, China-based Mozhao Studio, proposed the transformation of a mono-functional, lifeless facility into a vibrant and dynamic public space. Their approach makes the most of a key feature – parking lots tend to be empty during off hours – and reflects a popular trend in Asian cities: alternate use concepts. With space at a premium in built-up metropolises, orderly downtown areas often turn into bustling marketplaces at night. Along these lines, Mozhao proposed a weekend market held on the parking tower’s lower levels, while a soaring atrium – inside the endless spiral ramp – turns the tower’s automated workings and mechanical beauty into an aesthetic attraction. Meanwhile, a suspended pedestrian walkway connects the structure to the adjacent city hall, itself a cross-functional venue, while similar schemes in densely populated Tokyo envision a parking lot that doubles as an urban green oasis and street art gallery. (Cheungvogl architects ).

Architectural symbioses

A few years ago, two housing projects – the Mountain and the 8House – made a splash in Copenhagen’s new Ørestad district. These extraordinary endeavors celebrate what Bjarke Ingels, founder of studio BIG, describes as one of the key qualities of Danish culture. “Every point of view is valid and should be heard.” And while such a quest for consensus might eventually lead to the elimination of all diversity, “it can also turn pleasing people into a radical agenda: Imagine trying to give them an urban location – and a penthouse view and suburban house – all crammed into a single project. Think of living on a small street with plenty of gardens, yet – at the same time – being on the third floor and right in the heart of the city.” A notion that perfectly encapsulates the Ørestad projects. Another new architectural hybrid, Rotterdam’s MVRDV-designed market hall, exploits unique synergies to meet disparate urban needs. In order to reflect new hygiene regulations, requiring covered areas for traditional open-air meat and fish markets, MVRDV proposed a clever fusion of food, leisure, living, and parking under a single roof. The resulting arch, with its 228 apartments and covered square, serves as a market hall during the day, yet remains alive after hours thanks to its first-floor restaurants.

Added infrastructure

To become a bona fide destination, a city does not necessarily need an extravagant museum or concert hall, according to UK-based architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick. After voicing his interest in building a power station as part of a radio interview, he received an invitation to design just that: a biomass-fueled power station. “One of the most discussed subjects today is where water and power can come from. And I don’t see why a power station shouldn’t offer the cultural value of an art center,” Heatherwick explains. His own creation is intended to be “a special building that can make the area more particular instead of more similar to everywhere else.” While the project awaits planning permission, Copenhagen welcomes yet another infrastructural marvel. Scheduled for completion in 2016, Amager’s new waste-to-energy plant will not only boast progressive waste treatment systems, but also become a veritable attraction and destination in itself, according to the aforementioned BIG architects. Already popular among adrenaline junkies for its cable skiing, rock climbing, etc. facilities, the area awaits the addition of the Amager Resource Center as a further recreational highlight. With a smokestack resembling a mountain peak, wouldn’t a rooftop ski slope seem only natural?

At home in the shopping center

Contemporary cities contain a wealth of precious resources and untrammeled territories, some of which architect Philippe Gazeau explores as part of his research on the Greater Paris area’s development potential. Take the space occupied by car parks of the fifty largest commercial centers around Paris: This adds up to 2.89 square kilometers – or the size of the city’s entire 10th arrondissement. Yet while retail space tends to be highly cost-efficient, these parking lots remain empty for long periods of the day, making them surprisingly unprofitable. So, why not occupy this inexpensive, underutilized, and well-connected space with affordable apartment towers, offices, and recreational facilities?

All of these measures taken together could easily transform asphalt expanses into thriving neighborhoods!

Text: Anna Yudina
Header image: The Market Hall by MVRDV architects, photo © Kees Stuip, Nieuwerkerk aan de Ijssel, NL and TS Visuals*, Alkmaar NL
*manufacturer of printed aluminium panels