An old cotton mill in China has been reborn as a hub for arts and retail with a sculptural and site-sensitive aluminum-clad addition. Kengo Kuma and Associates converted the 10,440-square-meter mill into Wuxi Vanke, a mixed-use development that juxtaposes the factory’s old redbrick facade with a contemporary extension clad in a complex perforated skin. The facade of the new art center features an outer layer made up of hundreds of intricate aluminum panels that reference the porous shape of the famous Taihu limestone found in nearby Taihu Lake.
Though the cotton mill now serves a more highbrow purpose, the architecture was largely retained to create an industrial chic appearance. Concrete, metal, and glass dominate the interior material palette. Natural light and ventilation flows through the factory skylights.
In contrast to the blocky mill, the new extension takes on an organic “amoeba-shaped” form that’s partially surrounded by a small undulating pool. The architects wrapped the building in two facades: full-height glazing set back from a complex aluminum screen comprising hundreds of perforated panels arranged in an almost brick-like pattern that alternates between void and solid. The hollows commonly found in the Taihu stone inspired the porous design. “Infinite number of the holes on the panel passes through sunlight and the gentle light fills the room of art,” write the architects. “Past and future was linked by the material and the detail of the building.”
Images via Kengo Kuma + Associates