Renovation of Nanjing Combat Machinery Factory / Mix Architecture
Text description provided by the architects. Nanjing Combat Machinery Factory is located on the west side of Hongshan in the north of the city and is nearby the Nanjing Railway Station. The factory was built in the 1950s. With the expansion of the city and industrial development, the production department moved out, which leads to the idle of the original factory. Around 2006, people tried to renew the factory, hoping to reopen it as the creative industrial center. However, for some reason, the building failed to attract people’s attention even though it was renewed.
After the reconstruction, new walls were built, bricks were paved, and the whole building was painted, which hides industrial memory. In the past 20 years, the vegetation gradually spreads to the factory area, trying to cover the facade of the factory. The factory is corroding by nature, standing at the edge of the community, and forgotten by the people and the city.
At the end of 2020, the owner entrusted MIX Architecture to renovate and update the factory, hoping to make it a composite emerging park with an office as the main body. Besides protecting the existing trees, architects need to show the history of the building and make the renovated building able to follow the language of the city. During the design process, we were inspired by the most attractive characteristic of the original building, which is the red brick wall. Renovating the park in a serious but casual way. We think the main characteristic of the factory is “red”.
The reasons are complex but simple. First, the factory locates on the west side of Hongshan. In Chinese “hong” means red. Second, the factory was established around the 1950s, people prefer to call the memory in that period “red memory”. Third, in some sense, the red brick building could be considered a “red building”. After consideration, Mix Architecture decides to use red bricks, red concrete blocks, red terrazzos, and red face bricks as the main material of the building.
Those materials come from different periods, standing for the different construction methods. After the renovation, the park could follow the language of the city better in a complete and clear way. Reshaping people’s memory of the factory in a familiar and unfamiliar way.
After deciding on the material of the park, the next goal is to enhance the uniqueness of each building in the park and establish the relationship between humans and nature. The position of the wall and the different rhythm in each space inspired the following design process. The low courtyard wall has been placed with the on-site vegetation, separating the public space from the individual space. It eliminates the height difference of the site, fills the gap between the buildings, and gives each building a unique space under the premise of the integrity of the site.
The solid and substantial wall is an important part to guide people from the road to gradually walk into the zone and enter the interior space. The continuity of indoor and outdoor spaces provides a complete experience. Each building has a window extending to the surrounding mountains or nature. When visitors enter the building, the strong and thick red color gradually substitutes nature.
Generally, Mix Architecture wants people to understand the renovated building through three steps —acknowledging, feeling, and experiencing. The architecture becomes a connector, using the changes of space and materials, trying to dialogue with the city, historic architectural buildings, and nature on different levels, which connects the city, history and nature together. People will know the existence of the first building. While walking around the building, visitors will notice the historic atmosphere through the materials. After entering the building, visitors will be attracted by the scenery outside the windows and build connections with nature eventually.