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Hanjie Wanda Square, Wuhan, China

Issue 77 February / March 2014 : Retail: Shopping Centre

Architecture and Interior Design: UNStudio Lighting Design: UNStudio Lighting Design Consultants: ag Licht, LightLife, BIAD Zheng JianWei Lighting Studio

UNStudio combines both contemporary and classical elements in the design of Hanjie Wanda Plaza, a luxurious shopping mall in Wuhan City, China. A lighting design collaboration with ag Licht and BIAD Zheng JianWei Lighting Studio ensures the architecture dazzles.

Hanjie Wanda Plaza is a new luxury shopping mall located in the Wuhan Central Culture Centre, one of the most important areas of Wuhan City in China.

Following a competition in 2011, with design entries from national and international architects, UNStudio’s overall design was selected as the winning entry for the façade and interior of the mall, which houses international luxury brand stores, world-class boutiques, catering outlets and cinemas.

In UNStudio’s design, the concept of luxury is incorporated through the craftsmanship of noble, yet simple materials and combines both contemporary and traditional design elements in one concept.

The architects worked closley with German lighting design practice ag Licht, who was brought on board at an early stage to act as the content provider for the façade lighting (together with control specialists, LightLife) and as the lighting consultant. In this capacity, ag Licht aided local lighting design firm BIAD Zheng JianWei Lighting Studio with the façade lighting scheme and lighting supplier Shengzen BUME for the interior lighting.

ag Licht, in close cooperation with UNStudio, produced sketches, lighting fixture proposals and detail solutions as a base for further development through BIAD and BUME. The subsequent sampling and mock-ups were all prepared by the local design firms and then confirmed or altered by ag’s team in China.

The lighting scheme for the public spaces plays an active role in guiding customers to enhance their shopping experience. To choreograph such an experience, UNStudio coordinated all the lighting elements specifically addressing different needs. Entrances and atriums are implemented with celebratory lighting whereas shop front corridors were filled with calm steady lighting.

For Ben van Berkel, Co-Founder and Principal Architect at UNStudio, lighting was an integral aspect of the project: “Reflection, light and pattern are used throughout the Hanjie Wanda Square to create an almost fantastical world. New microcosms and experiences are created for the shopper, similar perhaps to the world of theatre, whereby the retail complex becomes almost a stage or a place of performance and offers a variety of different impressions and experiences to the visitor.”

Visitor flows are guided from the main routes towards the façades and entrances of the building. From the three main entrances, visitor flows are thereafter guided to two interior atria.

The concept of ‘synergy of flows’ is key to all of the design components; the fluid articulation of the building envelope, the programming of the dynamic façade lighting and the interior pattern language that guides customers from the central atria to the upper levels and throughout the building via linking corridors.

For both the large scale façade and the vast interior spaces, daylight and artificial lighting cast light and shadow depending on the moment of the day and, in a playful manner, material reflections are integrated as one of the layers of the interior finishes.

In this way several different zones of lighting effects guide the visitor from the animated kaleidoscopic façade, through the main entrances with the custom designed chandeliers towards the two central void spaces combining daylight and effect lighting at the vertical funnel structure. In areas where the product is displayed in the foreground, the lighting effects are subdued and centre stage is given to the brands.

The interior concept is developed around the North and South atria, creating two different, yet integrated atmospheres. The atria become the centre of the dynamic duality of the two Hanjie Wanda Square identities: Contemporary and Traditional. Variations in geometry, materials and details define these differing characters.

With two main entrances, the North atrium is recognised as a main venue hall, and the South atrium as a more intimate venue hall. The North atrium is characterised by warm golden and bronze materials reflecting a cultural, traditional identity.

In the South atrium, silver and grey nuances with reflective textures indicates the city identity and its urban rhythm. Both atria are crowned by skylights with a funnel structure that connects the roof and the ground floor. The funnel structures, that also house the lifts, are each clad with 2,600 glass panels and are digitally printed with an intricate pattern.

ag Licht carried out numerous tests on the glass with different kinds of printing and very different lighting approaches. They eventually settled on a steel structure to incorporate small LED uplights to illuminate the main lines of the steel structure whilst also glowing on the glass printed

“In principle we chose lighting fixtures available in the local market considering operating and maintenance issues,” reveals van Berkel. “However, when the products did not satisfy the design needed we custom designed fixtures appropriate to the circumstances.”

Lighting in all public interior spaces creates a continuous, yet ever-changing, flow of moments. This membrane of glowing surface stretches through atriums, corridors, seating and lobbies. As a soft interior architecture component it provides a constant background. At times it can also emerge to the foreground to accentuate special interior moments such as atrium and vertical connections.

The façade was designed to transform the building to a full blown multi-media display during the night. Stainless steel spheres are integrated with the lighting fixtures to create the façade modules. At the entrances, the spheres swarm to the main doors to pave a highlighted way for customers. Further downlights were hidden in the soffit to provide high capacity lighting volume.

The design of the façade was a collaborative process. UNStudio first sketched models and then, through populating the facade surfaces with different modules, they tested what could be the most optimum distribution and scaling for the façade elements. Different metallic colours were tested in combination with the stainless steel spheres and how hot spots and reflections of the lighting fixtures could be avoided as much as possible.

“We tried to achieve a seamless integration of light and material,” recalls van Berkel. “The craftsmanship of the spheres and the making of the façade elements were essential as the finish quality would highlight every unevenness and bump even more. The original idea of the backlit alabaster as part of the spheres had to be replaced by a print version of natural stone in combination with glass. Once we started to gain knowledge on the media content we further streamlined the design of the fixtures. High display resolution RGB LEDs were retained while the fixtures were economically optimised.”

A retail mall is a demanding space, asking for a high level of maintenance and long lasting material qualities. It was a challenge for UNStudio to guide the execution of the project in such way that quality wasn’t compromised due to the restricted time schedule available for the construction. Working with the client’s conventional venders had its benefits as well as challenges for UNStudio in that they secured timely solutions but the designs were often sent back and forth in order to achieve the unprecedented look the architects were looking for.

“As architects,” comments van Berkel, “we are extremely proud that the client’s tough time schedule between the competition and the opening could be handled due to a hands-on integrated design approach, where design phases and construction phases would simultaneously influence each other instead of subsequently following one another. The lighting was not an additional phase to the overall design of the architecture and interior. It was, in fact, a very successful and important integration within the overall scheme.” /


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