All images courtesy of MVRDV
Close to Beijing’s Forbidden City, exterior construction is nearing completion on a shopping centre designed by Dutch studio MVRDV. Named the ‘M-Cube’, the project comprises a singular building that combines daytime retail with vibrant nightlife, acting as a major hub in the central district of Chongwenmen. The plot sits near to historic Hutongs and the Temple of Heaven — a medieval complex of religious buildings — as well as new commercial cores and the Beijing Railway Station. The 33,000 square meter scheme has been developed in collaboration with KWG property, a Guangzhou based real estate corporation.
Faced with the challenge of maximising the value of a relatively small plot, the basic volume was first extruded to its height limit and then cut away to establish visual and symbolic connections with various key parts of the city: the Forbidden City, from the top levels; Beijing Railway Station, from the middle terrace; and the main street and metro station at ground level. This results in an increased visible façade, largely used for advertisement space.
Internally, the program is organised around a generous atrium. Lower levels are primarily used for retail outlets, while the upper floors contain restaurants, bars, and an elevated lobby connected to the street through exterior escalators. Visitors are also able to access the building via an underground walkway, which leads directly from the nearby metro station. The structure opens up to the street, activating the ground level and restoring a human scale to the existing urban fabric. At the uppermost storey, a rooftop garden and various terraces provide quiet refuge from the busy cityscape below.
To clad the building, the architects implemented a vibrant pearlescent façade that uses newly adapted materials. Working with manufacturers NBK and HDTC, MVRDV developed hand-glazed tiles that radiate a whole spectrum of colors that fluctuate depending on when and where they are viewed. As a result, the elevation presented to the street reveals new patterns and colours as lighting conditions change. ‘The façade design balances between the desire of the client to create a striking building and the restrictive architectural conditions in that part of Beijing, demanding greys and beiges,’ explains MVRDV co-founder Jacob Van Rijs. ‘Depending on the viewpoint, both parties can be satisfied as the façade material appears differently when looking at different angles, it varies from subtle grey to all colors of the rainbow.’
MVRDV won the competition to design the ‘Chongwenmen M-Cube’ in February 2012, with construction of the entire complex due to be completed in the summer of 2016.