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Spark wishes Vanke a happy 30th anniversary

In 1984, when property developer Vanke was established by Wang Shi, the proportion of China’s population living in urban areas was in the vicinity of 20%. In 2011 it reached 50.5%, exceeding the rural population for the first time. Today, thirty years after its founding, Vanke is the world’s largest residential property developer by revenue (as reported by the Wall Street Journal), and its key role in the phenomenal change occurring in China is without question.

SPARK’s ongoing successful collaboration with China Vanke has spanned multiple projects, each of which addresses – and proposes innovative responses to – the radical changes happening in Chinese cities. The Vanke Supercity concept for Changping, just outside Beijing (2010), was the first collaborative project – an opportunity to establish a strong design direction through the rethinking of the conventional retail mall typology.

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The building’s façade was designed as a circulation route, and interlocking boxes suggested a three-dimensional neighbourhood. The unbuilt project revealed an alignment in thinking between SPARK and Vanke with regard to the development of active urban centres and the placement of residential accommodation squarely within them.
These ideas have been successfully refined in SPARK’s design for the Vanke Jiugong Mixed-use Development, which is currently under construction in outer Beijing. The development’s large mass is deconstructed into interlocking components, with two secondary ‘ground levels’ at height and external circulation routes on the façade. The project won the mixed-use category in the 2014 MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Award, and has been shortlisted for a 2014 World Architecture Festival Award – an indication of the strength of shared innovative thinking.

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Vanke Guangzhou Science Town (completed in 2013) is a village-like retail street with integrated public facilities, and forms an intimate part of a much larger residential development. SPARK happily embraced Vanke’s ambition of establishing a new benchmark for modern Chinese living with an emphasis on quality and heritage. The retail street design was crowned ‘Best Project’ at the Vanke Guangzhou 10th Anniversary Celebrations in 2013.

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Vanke has become known for its passion for good design, and the developer actively promotes its commitment to self-regulation, a high ethical standard and transparency. Mei Xuequn (Melvin), an Architect in SPARK’s Singapore studio, formerly worked as a Design Project/Product Manager at Vanke’s Nanjing office for two years. There, he encountered first-hand the developer’s wish to grow with its partners, consistently improving its capabilities through close and effective cooperation.

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He also observed Vanke’s commitment to intelligently responding to some of the most significant challenges affecting urban development in China – quality, sustainability and an ageing population. “Vanke began studying prefabrication technology several years ago,” he recalls, “as a means to improve quality, control costs and enhance efficiency. All projects are evaluated for their performance in terms of sustainable design,” he adds, “and in terms of ageing, Vanke is suggesting improvements to the community service system.”
Currently, Mei is working on SPARK’s design for the large-scale Vanke Xuzhou development. “We are designing a 1,000-metre-long commercial strip in the Xuzhou CBD, which is a big challenge,” he says. “SPARK and Vanke agree that the most appropriate solution involves creating design differentiation with a continuous tone.”

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SPARK’s Shanghai-based Regional Marketing Manager Min Wei was formerly a Senior Associate in the Product Management Department of Vanke Shanghai. She recalls that a strength of Vanke is its approach of “always standing in the customer’s shoes – of considering what the customer wants, then moulding the residential project to fit the customer’s requirement.”

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Min is eager to see the completion of SPARK’s Vanke Nanjing South Station development, which is currently under construction beside the completed Vanke New City Center Sales Gallery. Through their roles at SPARK, both Mei and Min maintain a positive interface with Vanke’s national and regional teams.

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Vanke Daxing is perhaps SPARK’s most daring project for the developer to date, involving the development of an expansive publicly accessible park environment between office, residential and retail buildings. Now under construction in Beijing, it represents a dedicated effort to provide an open realm for community interaction and enjoyment in Daxing – a counterpoint to the dense modes of development that characterise the central city.
It encapsulates Vanke’s innovative approach – one that puts user experience before potential profit – as well as SPARK’s focus on the potential of architecture to contribute positively to the experience of the city. That innovative spirit will surely emerge in SPARK’s most recent commission from Vanke – for the design of the 7,000sqm Vanke Plaza in Xiamen. Conceptual design has just begun on this mixed-use development, which will become Vanke Xiamen’s new headquarters.
SPARK congratulates Vanke on its 30th anniversary and its phenomenal success, and looks forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration.

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