In a historic downtown, the adaptive reuse of a former factory building creates the “Idea Factory,” with a green roof & public space

In downtown Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, the Rotterdam-based design firm MVRDV has completed the adaptive reuse of a former factory building into the Idea Factory. This transformation—which is located in Shenzhen’s urban village of Nantou—sustainably repurposes and renews the structure, instead of demolishing and rebuilding anew.

The project contains a mixture of offices for the Urban Research Institute of China Vanke (Vanke is one of China’s largest real estate developers) and offices for rent – yet despite this program, its distinguishing features are public in nature.

A stairway cuts its way through the six-story building, leading to a rooftop with a series of “rooms” enclosed by living bamboo “walls”, offering a variety of amenities and activities.

Eschewing the usual route of demolition, the design sustainably renovates a disused factory building, maintaining a piece of Nantou’s history while also having lower embodied carbon emissions than a new building.

The building’s original structure has been strengthened so that an extra floor could be added on top to maximize floor area.

Meanwhile, the original façades have been removed, with the building’s concrete frame exposed and preserved to show traces of the building’s history.

The new façade is set back from the edge of the structure, creating open loggias that wrap around the whole building.

These allow for circulation and enable the chance encounters with colleagues that make for a dynamic creative environment.

Facing a small public square on the ground floor, a protruding tube-like structure clad in wood marks the entrance to the public staircase that carves its way through the building.

Inside, the staircase is clad in mirrors and festooned with bright neon signs, creating an aesthetic reminder of the early days of Shenzhen’s urbanization.

On the fourth floor, this staircase protrudes out the other side of the building – a chance to take in a view of the surrounding rooftops – before turning and continuing up to the roof.

The Idea Factory shows us the wealth of possibilities offered by buildings that some may think are ‘dilapidated’ or beyond their useful lifespan,” says MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas.

Not only were we able to make use of this existing structure, we intensified its use – adding an extra floor – and wove it into the public realm of Nantou with its green and public rooftop. It shows that the ‘hyper-new’ city of Shenzhen is entering its phase of reusing and renewing old buildings and turning them into the ‘new-old’,” he concluded.

Upon exiting the staircase, visitors are greeted with a green bamboo landscape packed with amenities and activities.

This is arranged to form a bamboo “maze” that divides the rooftop into different rooms, each containing a different activity: a glass box for performances and events, a variety of seating areas, a gym, a trampoline, swings, a tea house, a dining room, a dance floor, and a chess set.

This roof makes the project more sustainable both ecologically and socially: the bamboo creates a cool, shaded space and supports biodiversity within a dense urban environment, while the activity rooms provide social and leisure spaces in a neighbourhood that has historically been disadvantaged.

All images courtesy of MVRDV.

See MVRDV website.

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