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Condominium with Home Office: transformation of an industrial building (Thesis2000/01)

By : Ng Yuk Sang, Daniel

When a conventional apartment is converted into a home office, much is sacrificed: the loss of privacy, the loss of precious family space, and perhaps most important, the loss of “identity” when the haphazard hybrid is rejected as either a homestead or a serious business enterprise. SoHo (Small Office Home Office) is an architectural solution to avoid the seemingly inevitable. The project is designed to create multi-purpose space for the multi-tasking individuals.
An old abandoned textile factory is identified – a declining industry to be replaced by a modern lifestyle. Trifurcated into the Living Complex, the Atrium and the Conference Tower, SoHo offers the luxury and state-of-the-art facilities for serious business, without sacrificing the warmth and comfort of a modern family home.A standard unit in the Living Complex is a duplex with a separate exit on each level. The upper level exit opens to the circulation that connects the unit to the main office lobby. This forms the office circulation system. The lower level exit opens to the residential corridor. This forms the residential circulation system, accessible only to the home office families.
The two systems combine professional life with personal life, and at the same time shield family members from employers and business partners. The Atrium provides a buffer zone between the Living Complex and the Commerce. But it is more than what meets the eyes. The extensive covered space houses a variety of business and recreational activities, including business presentations, trade shows, and musical performances. With the Sky Stage located at the west end, and the connecting Sky Bridge and Sky Platform providing generous seating area, the Atrium can be transformed into a state-of-the-art theater. A Conference Tower provides floors of elegant and spacious conference rooms and other supporting facilities such as an exhibition pavilion, a glass-walled showroom and a luxurious private club. A Business Center, a part of the Conference Tower, is located on levels 5, 6 and 7. The Business Center is staffed with secretaries and formal office space for non-resident entrepreneurs who require a “hotel” office. Business opportunities abound as outside entrepreneurs are drawn to SoHo.

Tutor’s Comments
The building site, as this project shows, is not a plot of land, but a three-dimensional structure designed for industrial use thirty years ago. What was “design” is not a building starting from ground level and growing upwards, but actually a transformation process which could start at any level and expand in any direction. This project shows that when a densely built complex is immersed in conditions of rapid social and economic change, its static portion needs to be kept at a bare minimum: moderated, passive, neutral and even monotonous by necessity. The “built” needs to function only as an empty (or near-empty) armature supporting intensive flows of users and energy, subject to diverse and frequent changes of demand and interest. Therefore high-density / high-rise built structures can acquire an infrastructural character rather than those of formalized “Architecture” and “Urbanism”.
This project also indicates that building design becomes nothing more than preparing multi-leveled grounds for future infill construction. Building becomes: (1) a provision of services to support future, often unknown, programs; and (2) an establishment of networks for movement, communication, and exchange. Therefore integrated building is understood as action within an open structure.

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