Universal Creative Square
Developer: Zhonggeng Group
Location: Beijing, China
Driven by rising demand for office space from China’s fast-growing tech sector, Chinese developers have begun repurposing outdated, sometimes derelict inner-city buildings. In doing so, they often have to come up with creative solutions to deal with the unique characteristics of individual properties.
In the case of Universal Creative Square (UCS), the project involved the adaptive reuse of a former Wal-Mart warehouse (one of many in the area) that occupied the lower three floors of a seven-story building in Beijing’s growing technology hub of Wangjing. The repurposing was complicated by the fact that the upper four floors of the building had a different owner that did not participate in the conversion, meaning work had to be completed while tenants continued to occupy the upper floors.
Before and After Site Plans
Another challenge was that because the pre-existing space was created for a big-box retailer, it lacked natural light and consisted of very deep floor plates that made the less than ideal for use as offices.
To address these problems, designers introduced:
- A ‘townhouse’ strategy that partitioned floor plates to create a number of separate offices rather than a single large space on each floor. New ground floor openings were then introduced to facilitate access to the individual offices. These openings have also contributed to improved pedestrian circulation across a landscaped, publically-accessible community area outside the building. Given the younger demographic office workers now occupying UCS, the space has become a vibrant hub for the overall neighbourhood.
- To bring light into the newly-partitioned space, a significant area was cut from the three floor slabs at the centre of the building, creating a unsymmetrically-shaped atrium. While the current building configuration does not allow natural light to be introduced into the atrium, the new space still serves as a light well, creating a sense of openness in what would otherwise be a claustrophobic layout.
Following completion in mid-2019, developers have created 50,000 square metres of upscale technology offices. According to one juror: “Its interesting how they have sub-divided floor space to intentionally create small tenancies where they could have just kept the large floor plates with one tenant per floor. Dividing it into four suites spread across multiple floors makes for a very dynamic space.”
In addition, an articulated building façade was constructed that meshes well with the pre-existing façade on the upper floors, resulting in an aesthetically appealing external appearance.
UCS has also incorporated a significant volume of retail (in particular food and beverage) space on the ground and basement floors. This serves the needs of both building tenants and also the entire neighbourhood, given a previous shortage of retail facilities due to the impact of local planning regulations. Because UCS is located in the middle of Wangjing, it has now become a key component of a district-wide regeneration strategy, helping transform the area into a vibrant neighbourhood.
In terms of sustainability, the repurposing has successfully extended the life of the pre-existing building, thereby reducing the carbon footprint by eliminating the need for demolition.
Given the large number of outdated premises in inner-city locations that are currently unfit to meet the needs of modern-day office tenants, the mature whole-lifecycle development strategy and unique design approach offered by UCS has produced a replicable template for the transformation of other large floor-plate spaces in cities across China.