The project for the reconversion of the Tobacco Factory brings a complex yet straight forward concept of relating the future of Nanjing, as expressed in the brief of the competition, with its glorious past in terms of historical heritage: political, architectural, social, economical, geographical, etc… it relates the human ecology with the ecology in broad terms.
The conceptual intervention on the existing structure of the former Tobacco Factory is a definition that covers every aspect of creating architecture. It offers us the opportunity to organise our thoughts, without necessarily finding or having to focus on a sequence of priorities. In creating man’s habitat, every element is considered and as such can be instrumental in positively influencing his way of life. The two major themes we take care of in designing are the ecology of the Earth and human ecology.
The territory is the first essential element that building needs. The territory, our landscape, represents the two prime conditions: the physical and the social, necessary for the transformation of a cultural to a natural condition. The first question, simple but fundamental, that we ask ourselves is: “why do I have to build this place?”. The place is never neutral and presents itself with unique and distinct values. A wall or an opening positioned with a shift of only one meter, change both the meaning and the perception of an environment. The physical part includes, among others, the climatic, geographical, orographic, geological, urban planning, pre-existing conditions. The social part is marked by the cultural components such as history, traditions, social relations, the economy and politics.
Our intervention focuses on those values, bringing the existing structure into a new life, while respecting the soul of the stratifications happened in time. The new project is a kind of x-ray volumetric picture that reveals the main elements of the industrial complex and context. The soul of the concrete modern structural elements, the columns, is brought to a new life and meaning by its new shape (round) that at same time relates to the ancient columns of the great monuments of the city of Nanjing. This elementary but essential element (the column) is the heart of the entire composition. We reinforce the existing columns to allow the structure to bear the new load of the building, including the roof gardens and squares, and we emphasize their presence, stretching them up and around the building. We show the physical and conceptual skeleton of the industry buildings. The beauty that reveals this attitude is related to the honest and clear image of rebirth of the modern industrial history through a technological (structural) need or solution, that relates its shape to the architecture of the past. The institutional appearance of the new Tobacco Factory relates to the ancient building of Nanjing as capital: wall-column; the colonnades represent the public traits of the new organism. All the surfaces (vertical and horizontal) are linked with a rational thought that reminds to the industrial soul of the buildings, while projecting them into a new life and flow of contents. The entire block and all the buildings are related as it would be a unique space, fragmented by a collection of identities, while being at same time one single world through the main elements of the new composition: columns, slabs, glass, green, etc… a synthesis of rational yet poetical elements that play together building unity of identity. An identity that finally relates our contemporary life to the past and projected to the future. What is important is that instinctively this project makes one feel that the new Nanjing Tobacco Factory belongs to Nanjing, thanks to its transformation more than ever before. The project respects all traces of the historical layers, bring them alive, add the relation to the past and build a new contemporary structure that has a strong recognisable character.