FUZHOU – Located on a busy intersection in Fuzhou’s northern Jinan district, a glittering, multi-faceted crystal of a shopping mall rises from the ground. The latest project from Spark, an international design studio with offices across Asia and Europe, is no ordinary retail space.
The exterior – an homage to Marco Polo’s description of Fuzhou as a trading centre in precious stones – is a spectacle in itself, materialised in colour-shifting aluminium panels and three large LED screens, it is the manipulation of the traditional shopping mall typology which is the building’s greatest asset.
Across East Asia, shopping malls increasingly function as social meeting spaces, and the architects’ foremost objective was to create a stronger connection between their building and the surrounding city. ‘We love the street life and the many buzzing variants we have found in Asia,’ says Jan Felix Clostermann, one of the founding directors at Spark.
True to their word, the architects have created an elongated vertical street, meandering along the edge of the building onto the rooftop where a full cultural programme – open 24 hours a day – can be found. This circulation route is also the concentration for leisure and entertainment functions, as well as restaurants and bars, which complement the mall’s cultural offerings. Moreover, this side of the mall connects directly to the ground level, where a pedestrian street is created between the building and neighbouring residential towers.
Inside, the retail space is organised along an atrium, with direct connection to the exterior vertical street when the mall is open. ‘The two interweaving circulation routes activate both the urban and the interior space,’ Clostermann explains. ‘The atrium now becomes the public living room of the community and the vertical street becomes Fuzhou’s own version of Hong Kong’s mid-level escalator in Central Street.’