Urban renewal is one important process during the development of the city. The Shuiwei LM Apartment is one of the renewal projects that I have been visited. It also gives some cognitions about the urban renewal. The apartment is located in Shuiwei Village, the city center of Shenzhen, which is a famous urban village in Shenzhen. It seems to be one of the oldest urban villages in Shenzhen. Since the Open Door Policy in the early 80’s, Shenzhen became a Special Economic Zone in 1979 which accelerate urbanization and form a special typology of the urban village. It is not developed as the typical modern city, ‘the handshake housing block’ is the most common building type in those urban villages. The meaning of this building type could easily get from their name, the distance between every two buildings are really close which may enable residents in these two buildings to shake their hands through their windows from their own house.
After visiting the apartment, I don’t think it as a really successful project for urban renewal. During the renewal process, the architects tried to solve the problem of lack supporting facilities. They have added 7 elevators and some sky corridors in order to make these 35 individual buildings as a whole community. However, those sky corridors aggravate the problem of the natural light for the lower floors. Of course, since the distance between buildings is about 2.5-4 meters so this is not a criterion for this project, but maybe there are some other ways to lead more natural light into these buildings. Another main transformation is having the communal living room inside the building. The communal living room is built inside two buildings on one level, the two buildings were connected by a steel structure forming one big space for public activities. I think this is a workable solution for the lack public spaces. There are no more spaces outside therefore the internal communal spaces occurs. What makes this project so special is the opportunity to give the handshake tower blocks a second life and to create awareness that re-use of buildings is also a serious and interesting option to be considered.
In the past decade, reconstruction in these urban village areas means to push down those ‘handshake housing block’ and to build new typical residential buildings. However, in this project, they focus on reuse these ‘handshake housing block’ by adding some new functions which may change it into more suitable for today’s city life. In my opinion, this method may not work as well as the ‘push-down’ method but it could keep the original texture of the city and the special spatial dimensions of the ‘handshake housing block’. Although this may cause a lot of problems such as fire-resistance and some lack of support facilities, that is the way we should be concentrate on. One the one hand, to respect the history of the city; on the other hand, to keep the city following the path of the development. I think this is the main difference between the architects and the builders.
- the Shuiwei LM Apartment, Shenzhen / DOFFICE, 2017-12-15