Variation of modes of use: functions, users, schedules, etc.

Relationship between the ownership and the form of the investment that allows the transformation

Variation of the overall dimensions of the building

Proportional relationship between new spaces and existing spaces

Relationship between the structural adjustments and the existing structure

Relationship between the forms and types of pre-existing materials and those of the new intervention

Relationship between the image of the new and the image of the existing (mimesis / contrast)


51-52 Ganyuan Rd., Tianhe District, Guangzhou - 23°09'58.2"N 113°18'49.7"E


O-office Architects



O-office Architects – Tianhe Youth Commune

PROJECT - Main Infos

PROJECT: O-office Architects – Tianhe Youth Commune

LOCATION: 51-52 Ganyuan Rd., Tianhe District, Guangzhou - 23°09'58.2"N 113°18'49.7"E

YEAR: 2017

ARCHITECT / FIRM: O-office Architects

BUYER: Guangzhou Vanke Real Estate Co., Ltd.

SURFACE: 20.760 sqm

PRICE: € 4.200.000

Located in Tianhe District of Guangzhou City, the Shadong Township, where sits the buildings of this project, was erected in December 1995. The local economic corporation in the late 90s constructed on the commune’s fringe land a 4-storey warehouse leased to the Guangzhou Book Center for their new book storage. Eight years ago, the company constructed a new five-story warehouse building on the northern side of the previous one. The status quo of the site is now one new and one old vacant multi-story warehouse building. The compound’s accessibility from the city is poor, but they own the beautiful scenic view of Baiyun Mountain. In consideration of these two multi-storey warehouses, without long history or any spatial distinctives, the architect experiments a bold spatial operation of transplantation of mountain-landform”, within the 8.5-meter-wide "canyon" between the long sides of the two buildings, to reshape the post-industrial site. The reconversion creates a new state of combination of urban and rural, and this new “urban-rural integration" will serve as an incubator and living home of the new urban young talents. 7 solid landscape segments transplanted from Baiyun Mountain link the two buildings into a new community with a total gross floor area of 23,000 square meters and accommodating about 800 young people to work and live in the commune. By the intervention of the floating landscaping bridges, a continuous climbing walkway links and runs through from the entrance of the compound to the roof-top garden and recreation facilities, offering a real experience of outdoor climbing within the new youth commune.

WHAT - Program

TOTAL REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: The new functional program has completely replaced the original one.

The two warehouses in the compound, one in the south of 4 stories and one in the north of 5 stories, are about the same size in terms of building height and total floor area. In the design scheme, he newer and longer one in the north side was divided into two parts. The east half together with the older building has been transformed to incubation work spaces for freelance entrepreneurs or young firms to build up their business. Its west half has been reconverted to 82 rental apartments mostly for those who work in the commune. The roof-top spaces of the two buildings have been re-built to a series of common facilities, including public kitchen and canteen, an outdoor theatre, a gymnasium and a basketball field. All these common spaces, together with cafeteria and the reception area on the ground floor, are inter-connected by the continuous climbing walkway, forming the public realm for the new eco-urban commune.

WHO - Financing

TOTAL REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: Financing made entirely by an investor other than property.

The existing buildings were developed during the special period of the city’s rapid expansion when the local former rural communes were allowed to build properties on their farm land, in order to shift from agriculture to industry and real estate management. However, many of these rental industrial properties became vacant in recent years due to transferring of industry. The financial model of these project is a joint-venture between a large professional developer (Vanke Guangzhou) and the building’s owner. Vanke invested to convert the building compound and they pay monthly revenue to the owner for 20 years. After 20 years’ operation, the property will return to the owner.

HOW MUCH - Absolute Dimensions


PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The overall dimensions increase moderately with respect to the pre-existing surface.


PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The overall dimensions increase moderately with respect to the pre-existing volume.

According to the urban development regulation, collective properties of this kind can be renovated and transformed to new function, but hardly add extra volumes, due to the strict control on building development in urban area. The two original buildings, even including the exterior walls, are completely preserved and transformed to new offices and apartments. Outdoor platforms and landscape gardens are implanted to link between the buildings and between the building and the site ground.

HOW MUCH - Relative Dimensions

PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: Pre-existing spaces are prevalent with respect to new spaces.

The architect implants mostly only outdoor landscaping surface and elements for common use. The major intervention is the land-form segments that connect the two buildings and formulate a continuous outdoor landscape platform / walkway from the entrance ground to the rooftop public realm. Some light-structure volumes are also added on the roof surface. No more functional surfaces are added to the existing floor surface.

HOW - Design Strategy STRUCTURE

PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The supporting structure is mainly the original one.

New implanted land-form structure makes use of the loading margin saved from alteration of the buildings’ function form warehousing to office and apartment. No extra foundation is therefore needed. All weight of the new intervention is supported by the original structure. steel reinforced concrete construction is applied to the intervened land-form volumes.

HOW - Design Strategy MATERIAL

TOTAL REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: The materials chosen for the new intervention are completely different from the pre-existing ones.

The material strategy follows the spatial strategy: using mostly natural materials to alter the former semi-rural industrial site to a new home for the new young talents of the city. The architect works for spatial poetics that maintain and reinforce on-site layering of the time and space, and building up imagination and nostalgia within the abandoned relic site.

HOW - Design Strategy IMAGE

TOTAL REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: The new intervention is in total contrast with the existing structures.

This nostalgia-towards-future presented in the project provides a new spatial paradigm for the one-way urbanization of Pearl River Delta cities. Precise intervention of minimally invasive surgery and implantation of heterogeneous genes will evoke colonization of a new prototype of eco-urbanism within the homogenous cities. Ecology in this sense will not only be of biology, but also of sociology.