Designed by MVRDV, Tainan Spring is a public space that includes the transformation of a former city-centre shopping mall into an urban lagoon surrounded by young plants that will develop into a lush jungle, reconnecting the city with nature and its waterfront. Commissioned by the Urban Development Bureau of the Tainan City Government, the completed masterplan rejuvenates a ‘T-Axis’ to the East of the Tainan Canal, creating a new landscape strategy to unify the site of the former China Town Mall and a kilometre-long stretch of the city’s Haian Road. In addition to the new public square and urban pool, the plan includes improved public pathways, a reduction in traffic, and the addition of local plants.
China-Town Mall was built on top of the old harbor next to the Tainan Canal in 1983. A large commercial structure that no longer serves its intended purpose, it has become a drain on the vitality of downtown Tainan.
The China-Town mall has been removed and meticulously recycled, making the project an innovative example of the circular economy. The mall’s underground parking level has been transformed into a sunken public plaza dominated by an urban pool and verdant local plants and surrounded by a shadowed arcade. The pool has been carefully planned to be a perfect gathering spot for all seasons: the water level will rise and fall in response to the rainy and dry seasons, and in hot weather mist sprayers will reduce the local temperature to provide welcome relief to visitors, reducing the use of air conditioning in the summer months. This space hosts playgrounds, gathering spaces, and a stage for performances, while the artful deconstruction of the building’s concrete frame has left a number of follies that can in due course be converted to shops, kiosks, and other amenities.
Tainan Spring shows what solutions are possible for unused shopping malls now that online shopping is supplanting physical stores. This new way of preserving heritage meant that the site was not cleared and renewed in a tabula rasa approach – instead the foundations of the former mall stick out of the park and the lagoon like a contemporary Roman Forum, offering a visual marker of the historical decision to close a port in favour of a mall.
Tainan Spring is the first of two MVRDV projects that will be completed in Tainan this year, with the Tainan Wholesale Market currently in the final stages of construction to the east of the city. Tainan Spring was completed by MVRDV alongside an interdisciplinary team of experts including local architects LLJ Architects, sustainability/ landscape and urban designers The Urbanists Collaborative, structural engineers consultant Evergreat Associates, SE., transportation planners THI Consultants Inc., lighting designers LHLD Lighting Design, MEP engineers Frontier Tech Institute, and General Contractor Yong-ji Construction Co. Ltd.
Photography by Daria Scagliola