July 11, 2016
by juan
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Multifunctional architecture in the 21st century

Multifunctional architecture was born in the 20th century with the ideas of Le Corbusier, but reaches the 21st century enriched by other contemporary trends such as minimalism, high-tech turned eco-tech, sustainable architecture in all its variants and designations, and the new invisible architecture. Architecture, as any manifestation of the human intellect, evolves along with the evolution of human needs.

We propose below some recent examples of multifunctional architecture. As its name implies, multifunctional architecture has to do with spaces hosting various functions. The existence of multifunctional architecture makes increasing sense in modern life, where distances and time of travel, explain the convenience of gathering activities.

The three selected works have in common the fact that they have been designed by architects who are starting to draw attention because of the quality of their designs and their participation in international contests. All of them are architects concerned about generating sustainable spaces, privileging public over private areas, and by not only using but also showing technique and technology in their works thus following the road  paved by architects such as Renzo Piano, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers to mention only a few of them.

Coldefy & Associates: an aerial city for the Hong Kong Design Institute

Thomas Coldefy and Isabel Van Haute are a young duo of architects that manage Coldefy & Associates, a French Architecture and Urbanism firm, based in Lille. The firm is characterized by its dynamism and creativity.  They approach their projects with an extreme respect towards the site, and considering the urban culture of the environment.  They usually participate in major international competitions and so they managed in 2006 to get selected out of 162 projects for the design of the Hong Kong Design Institute.  In fact, the success of this project led them to open an office in Hong Kong, where since then they operate on a regular basis.

The design represents a glazed box raised seven stories above the ground, supported by four towers covered with an exoskeleton of white steel. An immaculate skin of glass covers the box, thus allowing a great view of the city. With clear references to the high tech trend, the towers supporting the glazed box are the soul of the Institute. Their structure and vertical distribution express the diversity of the disciplines taught at the Design Institute.

The building has about 30,000 square meters many of which are intended for public spaces. There is an urban park at the top while the podium houses four auditoriums, a cafe, a gallery and exhibition space. Sports facilities include an indoor games hall, outdoor basketball courts, and a swimming pool. A spectacular mechanical escalator – that reminds us to the one placed at the Pompidou Center in Paris – connects the more than 30 meters of difference between the top level and the street,  giving access to the urban park of public use at the complex.

This level of openness to the public is not one minor issue, considering that the complex is located in a very vertical and compact district of Hong Kong, surrounded by giant residential buildings and office towers. In fact, it can be said that the complex loads a horizontal density that odds with the brutal vertical density of the surrounding constructions.

This multifunctional building shows the vocation of the Hong Kong Design Institute of exhibiting a strong corporate image with eyes placed in the future but at the same time, without forgetting the care of resources that will make life possible in such future.  This building is at the same time a display of technical resources, a sustainable construction that includes an important green space, and a multifunctional space that is meant to create synergies between different activities.

NAME: Institute of design of Hong Kong – HKDI

ARCHITECTS: Thomas Coldefy & Isabel Van Haute

ARCHITECTURE STUDIO: Coldefy & Associés Architectes Urbanistes (CAAU).

LOCACION: Rennie’s Mill, Tseung Kwan O New Town,  Hong Kong

CLIENT:  Vocational Training Council Hong Kong

SURFACE: 42.000 sq. mt.


PRIZES & RECOGNITIONS:  This creation merited Thomas Coldefy and Isabel van Haute the “40 under 40” prize, organized by the European Centre for Architecture, Art Design and Urban Studies and the Chicago Athenaeum.


MVRDV and its Markthal: multifunctional space for the architectural transformation of Rotterdam.

MVRDV is an architectural firm based in the Netherlands, and founded in 1993 by Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries. Since their inception they have turned particularly to public works, being authors of various projects, not only in the Netherlands, but worldwide. At the moment they are working on several projects in different countries (China, France, India, United Kingdom, United States, etc.).  Their works are always monumental, have global scale and seek sustainability.

With the multifunctional horseshoe-shaped space called Markthal they contributed with a new piece to the architectural transformation of Rotterdam.  It was inaugurated on October 01, 2014 by the Queen Maxima.

Markthal (Market Hall) is a multifunctional space that houses the first covered market in Holland and integrates 228 apartments, 4600 sq. mts. of retail space, 1600 sq. mts. of housing space and 4 stories of underground parking facility with capacity for1200 cars.  The building consists of 11 floors in addition to the 4 aforementioned subfloors, and 26 lifts.

The walls are of gray stone and contain small glass windows supported by steel cables: both elements reinforce the aesthetic appearance of a horseshoe the building has, and by which is nicknamed as Koopboog (horseshoe in Dutch) . The windows are mostly squared of approximately 1485 mm width.

The interior of the building is decorated with a masterpiece of 11,000 m2 made by Arno Coenen, called Hoorn des Overvloeds (Horn of plenty). Coenen was selected among 9 international candidates, and his work was performed using 3D digital techniques. The huge file required special servers of the same type that Pixar Studios uses to make their movies. The 3D digital animation was divided into 4,000 pieces and then printed on drilled aluminum panels.  After the opening of the building in 2014, the work attracted worldwide interest.

The building has something very peculiar:  its market hall was built over a village from the 14th century which was found 7 meters under the ground during the construction. The town was prior to the existence of Rotterdam and was called Rotta in allusion to the river Rotte.  Its old buildings have been preserved and are displayed to the public.

NAME: Markthal (Market Hall)




FUNCTION: commercial/cultural/recreational

LOCATION:  Binnenrotte, Rotterdam, Holland

YEAR: 2009-2014

IMAGES: MVRDV AND Markthal (Market Hall)

COST: 178 million euros



Euronantes: a multifunctional space designed by Atelier Zundel & Cristea.

AZC is a French firm founded in 2001 by Grégoire Zündel and Irina Cristea which has successfully developed hundreds of projects of varied scales and uses, with commissions obtained either through international competitions or direct contracts.

AZC has a special affinity by sustainable projects, produced with innovative techniques, aimed at large audiences: sports facilities, lecture halls, and office and residential buildings, some of which are very specific for vulnerable populations. The firm is also interested in structures related to transport, to the point that they have at present eight metro stations under construction, including four in Paris and four in Rennes and studies for a new station in Lyon, are ongoing. Many of their works have been awarded.

AZC won the tender organised by Nantes Métropole for the design of a multifunctional space called Euronantes.   This building is located in a very peculiar neighborhood, between the historic city center, the banks of the River Loire and the main railway station SNCF and close to the island of Nantes.  Despite of being an area of historic value, this is a growing quartier, seat of many startups related to new technologies and sustainability.

The intention of the architects was to develop a project representative of this mutating neighborhood, offering quality of live.

The building resembles a game of blocks: comprised of different structures superimposed on different senses, hosts at its transparent base different public activities. Transparency is precisely the tool architects have employed to transmit the idea of accessibility inherent to public spaces.  The upper volume that integrates the housing units is constituted by stacked “packages” differentiated by two kinds of facades:  two levels are wood cladded and the next three levels are covered by metal sheets.  This game of change on the facades reinforces the feeling of ‘movement’ that already generates the layout of the different volumes that make up the building.

The terraces generate a feeling of smooth transition between public and private spaces and provide each housing unit with a small green oasis and a privileged view.

NAME: Euronantes

ARCHITECTS:  Grégoire Zündel, Irina Cristea

ARQUITECTURE STUDIO: AZC – Atelier Zündel & Cristea

LOCATION:  Nantes, France

CLIENT: Ataraxia + GHT

USE: mixed use building that includes commercial space, housing units, offices, parking and children ‘playground.

YEAR:  2014

PHOTOGRAPHY: Atelier Zündel & Cristea


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