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WOODEN ORCHIDS
Eco-responsible shopping mall 2.0 switching to a circular economy,
Molewa, Ruichang, Jiangxi Province 2015,
China

TYPE: International Competition, UIA
STATUS: Honorary Mention Winner in the Professional Category
LOCATION: Mount Lu Estate of World Architecture - MOLEWA, Ruichang, Jiangxi Province, China
PLOT SIZE: Plot 5 = 20 912 M²
BUILT UP AREA: 30 000 M²
PROGRAM: Eco-responsible Shopping Mall, Public Library, Sports Center, Organic Food Courts, Farmers Markets
PROJECT PROMOTER: Huayan Cultural Investment Company, Ltd., Beijing, China
PROJECT MANAGER: Creativersal International, Ltd., Hong Kong
TECHNICAL ADVISOR: Chetwoods Architects, London
JURY: Mr. Ken Yeang, Ken Yeang Design International, Malaysia/UK; Mr. Ashvinkumar s/o Kantilal; Ong&Ong, Former President of SIA, Singapore; Mr. Silas Chiow, SOM, US; Mr. Sean Hinton, Founder and CEO, Terbish Group, Australia; UIA representative : Ms. Jennifer Lee, OBRA Architects, US.
« WOODEN ORCHIDS »
Plot 5 / Commercial & Cultural Category
A Pioneer Shopping Hub 2.0 Switching to a Circular Economy


1. CULTURAL EXPRESSION BETWEEN HISTORY AND NATURE

On the southern shore of the Yangtze River, the project is designed as an innovative and fresh solution to the main socio-economic problem in China: the migration of rural population into super cities. This massive rural exodus has created added stress to the already stretched urban resources, resulting in widely reported incidences of overcrowding, pollution and substandard living.

The project « Wooden Orchids » is directly integrated in a new urbanization model called « The Flower Ocean / Huayan Township », a sustainable and clean master plan based on a strategy aiming at developing existing medium-sized population.

Between Mount Lu (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Poyang Lake, this sustainable master plan contains a flower-themed park, new sanctuary for China’s classical garden heritage, and Molewa, the central part of the Huayan Township. The objective is to experience new leisure and cultural activities through the enjoyment and celebration of flowers.

The project is inspired by the organic and spontaneous structure of the nearby Wu Yuan Village (which is one of China’s most well-preserved and architecturally distinguished sites of traditional rural housing). Its architecture strengthens the impressive bio-diversified ecosphere of the Poyang Lake, the China’s largest freshwater lake and bird habitats.

The project wants to create a sense of place that relates to the history, geography and tropical climate of this magnificent area, and in the same time, it aims at alleviating the effects of climatic change by innovative solutions for commercial and cultural uses.

The cultural expression is to merge History and Nature in the architectural project in order to create a lasting impression and an emotional resonance on the visitors of this tourist destination. The goal is to promote a “liveable”, connected and development with a vibrant mix of both private and public uses encouraging eco-responsible living, learning, working and serving.

The leitmotiv of the « Wooden Orchids » is to transform Molewa into an ecosystem and the shopping complex into a forest of inhabited flowers. This enables energy efficiency that is in full harmony with nature and corresponds to the human desire for a better world.


2. COMMERCIAL INNOVATIONS BASED ON A DIGITAL AND CIRCULAR ECONOMY

New form, new functions and new mode of use are the key of this new prototype of green shopping complex redesigning complete supply chains for resource efficiency and circularity.

The challenge is to assure the transition between the linear economy, which relies exclusively on resource extraction, to a circular economy shifting the focus to reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products. Everything used and considered as « waste » can be turned into new resource.

In this new green shopping hub, in alliance with Huayan, a cooperation of local Chinese manufacturers, organic farmers, craftsmen, investors, designers, all of them, committed in the green circular economy and recycling, will be in contact within local and global wider communities.

All the products will be intentionally designed to fit into material cycles, and as a result materials flow in a way that keeps the value added for as long as possible – and residual waste will be close to zero.

The shopping hub will contain green stores and shops of the alliance committed to offer organic goods and services superior to what is extant in China’s developing cities.

As the centre piece of Molewa, the « Wooden Orchids » promotes a new model of fair trade based on high-quality and ecological merchandise with local branding and encourages the e-commerce and the delivery services.
Such as the hub, the architectural project proposes a 2.0 concept store highly connected and creates fluid, progressive and very modular conceptual spaces. Multi-use facilities are integrated considering that the tourist volume fluctuates widely based on seasons or national holidays.
The vision for the public realm is to create a new, distinctive, vibrant and high quality sequence of open spaces where tourists, employees, visitors and the local community can work, play and relax.

The project strikes the proper balance between formal beauty as a commercial value and practical utility.

Into the Nature, the shopping hub wants to transform the shopping experience by leveraging digital technologies. Therefore the project offers shops where objects can be customized and 3D printed with digital specialists. With instructive mobile applications, the visitors are also connected to the manufacturers and the famers of the site in order to discover the production methods and the “cradle to cradle” life cycles of food and goods.


3. ARCHITECTURE GENERATED BY MATHEMATICS AND TRIPLY PERIODIC MINIMAL SURFACES

The two plots of 75m x 120m follow the proportions of the golden section 1: 1.618. Fibonacci numbers are intimately connected with the golden ratio. They also appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the flowering of sunflowers and the family tree of a honey bee. This natural order has informed the hierarchy, sequence and flow of spaces and places.

The « flower theme » is the key design consideration for Molewa. Based on biomimicry, the architecture of the shopping hub is directly inspired by the petals of orchids translated into minimal mathematic surface becoming the wooden structure module for the shopping complex.

A minimal surface is a surface that is locally area-minimizing, and also a small piece that has the smallest area for a surface spanning the boundary of that piece. Particularly fascinating are minimal surfaces that have a crystalline structure, in the sense of a 3D repetition, in other words being triply periodic.

In the project, each petal of a surface presents a quadric rectangular tetrahedron as kaleidoscopic cell. This prefabricated and standardized wooden petal - the basic module - is repeated in the space 16 times to create a complete orchid inscribed in a box, the «wooden orchid box».

This initial « wooden orchid box » is 30 meters high, 40 meters long and 37.5 meters wide. Each plot of the shopping complex is created by 6 symmetric and/or asymmetric repetitions of this basic module. The 12 assembled modules form the whole project linked by footbridges above the East-West street.

From this geometric and structural logic based on the « orchid box », the 2 plots are designed in two different ways: additive or substractive.
On the one hand, the northern plot comprising the movie auditoriums, the public library, the physical exercise facility and the food services follows an additive architecture with solid facades and transparent minimal surfaces.
On the other hand, the southern plot integrating the 200 shops promoting organic foods , ecological products and farmers market follows a substractive architecture with transparent facades and solid minimal surfaces.

The two plots propose a lot of open spaces conceived to allow for a maximum of light and natural ventilation. Rather than creating continuous perimeter buildings, the shopping hub illustrates how the external spaces could open out towards the street and the public creating a series of garden squares.

Each square of the shopping hub is different in identity and explores species, colours and biodiversity. Pedestrian and bicycle routes cross opened amenity spaces, which link the urban plots creating an informal network of circulation. The pocket parks and gardens are overlooked by strategically placed uses providing natural surveillance and allowing residents and visitors to spill out into the spaces.
The resulting organic architecture aims at defining the landscape and built form together into a cohesive set which promotes harmony between human housing and the natural world through design approaches so sympathetic and well integrated with its site, that buildings, furnishings, and surroundings become part of a unified, interrelated composition.


4. ORCHID AS SYMBOL OF SUSTAINABILITY AND SELF-REGENERATION

In the heart of Molewa, the two plots dedicated to commercial and cultural uses develop additive and substractive architectures. This complementarity represents the right balance between fullness and emptiness, between shadow and light, between Ying and Yang.
The project explores not only the solution to integrate flowers into the landscape, internal decoration, blooming vertical gardens and services (e.g., flower therapy, flower tea house, greenhouses, food gardens and community orchards) but it builds also abstractive and constructive flowers. The resplendence of these flower shapes gives the project an extremely powerful and tangible unique sales point.

The “Wooden Orchids” project is respectful of the Taiji Philosophy and directly inspired by the structure of the queen of flowers, the orchid, source of life and symbol of fecundity. Furthermore, the orchid can live endlessly in a very favourable place given its self-regenerative power. It reveals the notion of ultimate balance and sustainability praised by the Chinese spirit.

In ancient China, this flower was the symbol of fecundity. The « golden orchid houses » were referring to the houses which welcomed the single young women before getting married. In the Chinese culture, the orchid is the symbol of spring.

By the way, Confucius, the Chinese philosopher refers to it and talks about it as « the queen of the perfumed plants ». According to him, being introduced to good men is pleasant as entering into a room full of orchids.


5. THE 8 KEY TECHNOLOGIES INTEGRATED IN THE GREEN DESIGN

« Wooden Orchids » places great emphasis on sustainability by the application of the latest sustainable design principles, including : low carbon transportation, green infrastructure, renewable energy sources, smart city technologies, natural building materials and innovative construction techniques.
The aim of the project is to create a new prototype of shopping complex and a new eco-responsible shopping and cultural experience that combines passive bioclimatic principles and renewable energy technology to assure 70% of energy saving. The building is consequently designed to decrease its carbon footprint, and to recycle a part of its own waste as the grey water and organic waste for example.

5.1 LOW CARBON MOBILITY
Vehicular movement is rationalised to improve and prioritise the pedestrian environment without unduly affecting the operations of the area as a whole. A key multi-level public car park is provided under the Axial Park in front of the shopping complex and concentrates visitors arriving by car to the central area of Molewa. From here they rise via lifts to the main boulevard axis? and can wander in the area and the shopping complex. In this new environment pedestrians and cyclists will have the priority and reduced vehicular speeds will provide a safer space for people to walk or to cycle. Radiant bicycle parking provision will be included around each green pillars of the project to encourage the use of the bicycle for trips to and from the different areas and the rest of the city.


5.2 PRO-ACTIVE LANDSCAPE
Molewa should feel intrinsically linked to the flower garden. Gardens, trees, planting and nature permeate through all of the 2 building plots and help to define the character of the plots by providing open space and an informal network of pedestrian links.

The flows are drawn by the architecture and make a design strategy to ensure the integration of Molewa with the adjacent Flower Garden attraction and to bring flowers and colour deep into the internal courtyard spaces of the cultural quarter.

Building footprints cover approximately 50% of the site area providing generous open spaces. A street cornice line datum is established at 30m above pavement. The massing of the « Wooden Orchids » respects the principle of large floor plate (double decks) buildings and expressed roof tops with key corner sites expressing gateways and connections into and out of Molewa. The architectural intent is to create streets and to avoid “object buildings” sat in the middle of open plots which do not establish and maintain a strong street pattern.

5.3 URBAN WATER HARVESTING BY RAIN GARDENS
The streetscapes, plazas and car park areas will contribute to capturing, filtering and collecting the rain water through a series of “rain gardens”. Where possible, tree pits and planting beds will be designed to capture the low flow surface water from hard paved surfaces. This will be filtered through biofiltration means before being released into the wider drainage network.

5.4 PASSIVE GEOTHERMAL COOLING AND HEATING SYSTEM

Passive Cooling is a building design approach that focuses on heat gain control and heat dissipation in a building in order to improve the indoor thermal comfort with low or nil energy consumption. This approach works either by preventing heat from entering the interior (heat gain prevention) or by removing heat from the building (natural cooling). Natural cooling uses on-site energy, available from the natural environment, combined with the architectural design of building components (e.g. building envelope), rather than mechanical systems to dissipate heat.

Geothermal system can reduce during the summer or increase the temperature during the winter by 5 to 8°C in inner spaces during a heat or cold wave using virtually no electricity. It consists of passing a proportion of fresh air and/or fresh water through pipes buried around 2 to 3 meters in the ground, below the foundations of the building, before it enters the shopping complex. In the summer, conversely, the ground is cooler than the outside temperature: this clever “well” is going to use the ground freshness to temperate the air coming in the housing. In the “Wooden Orchids”, shafts are integrated along all the cores to cool naturally commercial and cultural spaces. Using ground loops, the geothermal heat pumps enable to move heat energy back and forth between the building and the earth to provide an efficient and environmentally friendly method for heating and cooling commercial spaces, and even to help to supply hot water.

5.5 RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
Sustainable energy use and development of renewable energy are promoted by the master plan. The orientation and the massing of buildings have been carefully considered to take advantage of daylight and to avoid excessive overshadowing. A south-facing orientation strategy has been applied.

In the project, big solar canopies south inclined cover 50% of the surface area of each plot and generate in situ a big part of the electricity. Glass-metal tubes collecting the heat of the sun and heating the water are also integrated in the solar canopies.

The solar cells and the solar tubes are arranged in a double glass layer easy to clean to keep a maximum of luminosity in the public spaces.

In addition, vertical-axis wind turbines are located on the landscape rooftop in order to benefit from the prevailing winds and to generate a maximum of electricity. Along the “Axial Park”, a new energetically self-sufficient urban lighting prototype, « The Phylolight », is integrated. This Phylolight is a new hybridization between an urban light and a vertical wind turbine.

5.6 ROOFTOP COMMUNITY ORCHARDS AND FOOD GARDENS

On the rooftop of the “Wooden Orchids”, the goal is to transform the roof into a new innovation place for the social life for all the visitors. This big garden in the sky will integrate playgrounds for the children, sports areas, food gardens and orchards. This green roof will be a perfect insulation coat above the residential levels to reduce the urban warming.

The community orchards and food gardens provide fresh produces and plants as well as satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community and connection to the environment. Community gardens improve users’ health through increased fresh vegetable consumption and providing a venue for exercise.

The concrete cores of the project integrating vertical flows are covered by flourishing green walls enabling to reduce overall temperatures of the building. Indeed, plant surfaces, as a result of transpiration, decrease more than 4–5°C below the ambient air. Living walls may also be means for water reuse. The plants may purify slightly polluted water (such as grey water) by absorbing the dissolved nutrients. Bacteria mineralize the organic components to make them available to the plants.

5.7 SMART CITY TECHNOLOGIES
The user interfaces enable to control the different areas / rooms: temperature control (heating & cooling) / lighting control / ventilation control. Multi-sensors are used to detect quantity of people in the room, motion, temperature, and light level (Day/Night). Natural HVAC automation enables to reach perfect climate. Using automation application enables to control the required temperature before getting home while saving electricity.

5.8 SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS & INNOVATIVE CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES
Natural, organic and recycled materials linked with traditional Chinese wooden construction process correspond to the client’s aim to provide an economically sustainable low carbon philosophy. The use of recyclable and/or recycled furnitures (Cradle to Cradle) are recommended to the future tenants in order to decrease their carbon footprint.


6. COST EFFECTIVENESS BY THE STANDARDIZATION AND THE PREFABRICATION OF A UNIQUE MODULE

Since the project is located in a medium-sized developing city and intended for replication in similar settings, economy of construction is an important factor affecting the viability of the concept. The concept of the shopping hub is based on a strong geometry logic advocating the repetition of a single standardized and prefabricated module: the petal of the orchid. The repetition of this economic module generates the whole wooden structure of the project.

In addition, the whole project assumes to be at a level of 19.50 meters AOD (Water Level at 15.50 meters AOD) and consequently all visitor car parks are on the ground floor.

Last but not least, the integration of bioclimatic passive systems and pro-active renewable energies will enable to save 70% of the energy consumption.

Sustainability of Nature and Diversity of Culture are the two pillars of this Chinese pioneer 2.0 shopping hub switching from the linear economy to the circular economy!

COPYRIGHT : VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES, PARIS