The Longchang Apartments, which the British designed during the Shanghai Concession Period, is considered a building of great historical importance. However, the disconnected relationship between this historic building and the ever-developing modern society surrounding it becomes more and more evident over time. The backward living conditions of residents and management fail to meet contemporary needs, which intensifies various conflicts between different user groups within the historic site.
This thesis proposes a different way of living in high density within historic structures and explores a new program focusing on user groups’ behavior and interaction to activate the site. The adaptive reuse of Longchang Apartments re-organizes the interior according to programmatic requirements for privacy, and the inner courtyard is opened to the urban context as a public space that enhances a relaxing atmosphere and brings residents and visitors together through the outdoor cinema with a community cafe zone and a historical overview of the site.
As a response to the conditions required for the survival of historical buildings in contemporary society, integrating this historical building and heritage community with contemporary life helps the residents maintain an effective co-living environment. Simultaneously, the new openness provides visitors with more intuitive guidance through the building's new urban space to create a more harmonious open community environment.
ABOUT LONGCHANG APARTMENTS
The Longchang Apartments is located in Yangpu District, Shanghai. The building was designed by the British during the Shanghai Concession Period, which is under the charge of The Shanghai International Settlement in the early 19th Century.
There were 14 district patrol houses under the Shanghai Public Concession Patrol House. Yangshupu Patrol House was one of them. Longchang apartments was once the staff dormitory of Yangshupu Patrol House, which is now a residential complex for rental.
▲ Site Location
With the development of history, this building has different identities in different periods of time.
The building was once the staff dormitory of Yangshupu Patrol House which was the attached building next door. Nowadays, Longchang apartments no longer serves the police department, so the use of the building is no longer restricted. Some of the original residents still stay here, and the others are migrant workers who moved in because of low rent and convenient location.
In 2004 it was listed as a heritage architecture in Shanghai under the category of "Residence".
▲ Current status of Longchang Apartments
▲ Timeline of Longchang Apartments
When Longchang Apartments was completed in the 1930s, the north-east side of the courtyard is not used for accommodation. Still, it is used for public facilities, such as canteen, boiler room, laundry room, clothes drying room, restroom, bathroom, medical and health room, etc., for all the residents to use.
Each unit originally only accommodated one household but was changed to accommodate two households after 1949. In order to provide more living space with continuously increasing residents, many public facilities like the shared kitchen and laundry room were demolished and converted into residential units, therefore after the 1980s, resulting in small spaces and densely packed units. Residents started to build houses and occupy spaces in the corridors and staircases to expand their living area. This marked the apartment corridors extraordinarily narrow, allowing only one person to pass through.
▲ Changes of layout in the historical evolution
▲ The phenomenon of residents spontaneously occupying public spaces
There is no obvious distinction in the public space. The boundary of the private area mostly extends the occupancy of the public space by residents. The shared resources in public spaces are measured in an evenly shared manner. When the definition of public space and resources in the residents' hearts is biased with the actual situation, conflicts can easily happen.
Residents' spontaneous privatization of public areas also makes it impossible to guarantee the privacy of these spaces. The daily lives of residents are mixed in these public spaces. This uncommon life scene in contemporary society and the original reputation of the building attract more and more visitors to come. The lives of the residents have been affected but there is no suitable way to improve this phenomenon and protect the privacy of residents’ lives.
▲ Axonometric and Exploded View
The renovated contents are limited in the courtyard space to keep as much original construction as possible.
In the exploded view, the newly added layers are shown clearly, the first and second layers extended from the building and the third layer in the courtyard. The only demolished elements within the heritage building are some parts of the handrails, those cut are giving entrance from the original corridor to the new design.
▲ Section Perspective
▲ Partial axonometric section showing transition between various layers
The partial section shows the transition between various layers. From the private residential units of the old building to the corridor, then to layer 1 that carries the shared laundry and kitchen functions.
layer 2 which is the balcony layer is at a level lower than layer 1 and can be reached from two adjacent floors above and below. At the same time, the height difference together with the layout of the planting pots gives the two layers a soft partition.
▲ Residents' vision standing on layer2(the extended balcony layer)
▲ Residents' vision standing in the original corridor
Layer 3 is the most open layer on the ground floor of the courtyard. It is divided into two parts, one is an activity space for people which is designed as a semi-closed overall structure. Contains a historical gallery about the building and related history, leisure seating area. This area can be used for community activities and as an open-air movie area. It is like a living room of the community, providing visitors with a reasonable activity area instead of shutting them out.
The second part is for the existing parking function, with the same space but reorganized.
▲ View of the courtyard activity zone