We take a trip back to Shenzhen, China 2002 for an Epstein design project that ‘Would Have Been’ grand, but unfortunately could never get off the drawing boards. The Mangrove Bay Residential Development was envisioned as a massive community encompassing 12 high-rise towers featuring 4,104 apartments totaling 601,816 square meters of space. For you non-metric folks out there – that’s nearly 6.5 million square feet!
The Mangrove Bay Development site presented Epstein with a unique opportunity to develop a project which would have become a true landmark on the city skyline. Located at the edge of the City and the sea, the proposed design sought to weave together the land and water in an integrated landscape of floating gardens and pools. Due to its extremely high density, the relationship of the city edge to the sea became a critical design problem. Our solution visually extended the sea into the city, and the city into the sea, creating an edge which exhibits a harmonious balance of landscape and built structures. In this respect, our design recalled the geological history of the site, which was once ocean, and respects the past while celebrating the future. At the same time, our design proposed building forms and massing strategies which celebrate the rich history of Chinese Culture. From the "point towers" which appear as floating lanterns, to the slab buildings acting as folded plate screens, we attempted to create a balanced composition of water, land and structures.
The site plan was developed as a series of "floating" gardens and elevated pedestrian walkways. The emphasis was made to maximize the available green space in the center of the site. That conformed to the City of Shenzhen Planning Department's desire to maintain a visually open north-south axis through the property. As a result of this strategy, the majority of the building mass were designed as a series of slab buildings, defining the east and west edges of the site.The remaining units were provided in the six "point towers" in the center of the property. This massing strategy allowed for abundant amounts of natural light, ventilation, as well as view corridors to reach each tower.
The parking would have been accommodated in one story under the garden level. Access to parking would have been permitted through a series of ramps for both residents and service vehicles. The design of the parking level also incorporated natural light and ventilation, including six of the garden courtyards on this level were designed to be open to the main garden level above.
The final elements of our proposed site plan were the "common" buildings, consisting of kindergarten, senior citizen center, club-house and meeting rooms. These buildings were designed as unique curvilinear elements, to distinguish them from the residential buildings. The formal extent of these structures served to act as a unifying element tying together the north and south halves of the site. The intention is that these buildings function as a "spine" or part of the pedestrian path system, making circulation through the site a vibrant and interesting experience.
The architectural expression of the various building elements and materials was derived from climatic considerations. The building massing was designed so that no façade would face directly west, and the maximum number of units would face south while maintaining the center of the site as an open space. This generated the diagonal geometry. To be consistent with this design direction, we proposed to use materials and developed the elevations to also reflect climatic criteria.Therefore all the elevations would be composed entirely in glass and that an additional "skin" be designed and incorporated on the exterior of the building. This skin would have featured operable louvers - on the southwest and northwest facades, the louvers were envisioned hardwood to provide sun shading. On all the other facades, the louvers would have been made of glass, to take advantage of natural lighting conditions. The use of materials in this way provides a "natural aesthetic" for the buildings instead of artificially designed "themed" compositions.
Providing for natural ventilation and natural light are two additional factors that helped determined the architectural expression of these buildings. In the slab buildings, the portion of the building facing the center of the site, was composed of a "perforated" wall, one housing unit in depth. These perforations are gardens through which the units would have been entered and also would have provided for natural ventilation and illumination of the central light court. In addition, both sides of the slab buildings would have been punctured by large holes created by eliminating units from these areas. This ensured that an abundance of light and fresh air were provided for each unit.
The ultimately disappointing tale of Mangrove Bay is that after intense interest from the developer this project was moth-balled and set aside for future consideration. Alas, that future date has not arrived as yet.