Revival of the Silo

Location: Guangzhou, China
Completion Date: 2013
Project Team: Jon Gentry AIA, Aimée O’Carroll ARB

Project Narrative

Within one of the most urbanized areas in the world, there is often demand for pause within the city. In revitalizing existing districts within a rapidly growing city, a sensitive approach must be taken in order to successfully marry traditions of the past with the ever changing demands of future generations. Redtory is already a place where we can begin to see this happen. The history of the former packaging district is preserved in the reuse of its architecture and the introduction of new and often contrasting programs to reinvigorate the area.

With this proposal, the silo is transformed into a communal centre for the Redtory Art Factory. Cross-programming allows this unique structure to function as art forum, bath house, and contemplative reflecting pool. The land around the silo is planted to become a dense, encompassing bamboo forest. The forest floor is sculpted to channel water and the circulation of artists and visitors through narrow pathways and down to the lowered centre of the silo. The power of the journey and discovery of the silo amidst this new landscape gives artists and visitors alike pause for thought.

The void within the silo becomes a transformative space. A new inner skin creates spaces for the artists of Redtory to show their work, with large scale indoor and outdoor galleries. A rooftop sculpture garden allows a different perspective on the void whilst simultaneously creating relief from the relentless surrounding forest. It is here that the site can be appreciated as a whole – all elements can be absorbed at once. Through harvesting the natural abundance of water during the monsoon season, the void is able to shift seamlessly from art forum to reflecting pool, and from reflecting pool to bath house. The void addresses the needs of both the individual and the masses. It is able to become a forum for large scale installations, performance and video art. A network of cables allow a temporary canopy to be erected over the space to maintain its use throughout the year. In contrast, the silo can be closed to the public, forming a place of quiet contemplation and relaxation for the artists of Redtory. An outdoor hot bath forms in the depression within the silo – artists use this as an opportunity to step back from their work, reflect, and exchange ideas. Following the Chinese tradition of local bath houses, this becomes the communal core of Redtory.

The existing structures along Can Street are renovated and reused. New spaces weave, span across, and stack on existing structures to enclose shared courtyard spaces and covered exterior terraces for additional studio workspace. Similar to the silo, the studio buildings capture the communal courtyards that are used to distribute circulation, provide natural light, space for work, and the display of art. The massing completes the urban edge and energizes the north corner with a cafe and art gallery.

By activating the site surrounding the silo and building upon and within the existing structures, it is possible to capture the essence of the void. The project allows a transformative space to be created to inspire the artists and develop a forum for site specific work unlike any other in Redtory.