Adaptive Reuse: China Merchants Tower Dome

Blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, the China Merchants Tower Dome Renovation reinvents the glass dome crowing a 25-year-old tower in Beijing, repurposing the 700 square meter space into an agile, light-filled workspace across three levels.  

Prioritising wellness, sustainability, and flexibility, the new workspace includes reception, working areas, and executive floors equipped with high-quality amenities. By enhancing the existing architectural transparency of the space – which boasts an incredible 360-degree panoramic view of the CBD skyline – the design holistically connects the floors and blurs the boundaries between outside and inside to a unique, highly flexible, and human-centric workspace.  

Tower Dome sketch
Tower Dome Interior stairs

What was the approach?

There were two key drivers behind the adaptive reuse of China Merchants Tower Dome: wellness and sustainability.  

Tasked with re-activating the glass dome that crowns the building, Woods Bagot focused on elements that would allow for flexibility and increase wellbeing. As a result, light has been considered a key element – with the team taking every opportunity to ensure the office, and its workers, have access to natural light without the workplace being so bright as to detract from the experience.  

Aware that the project’s success depended on its usability as a workplace, the team committed to an approach that recognised and exaggerated key elements of the design to showcase its uniqueness. This approach saw Woods Bagot elect to remove some of the existing walls for flow and agility – embodying an elegant, ‘less is more’ approach to adaptive reuse. 

Seamless technology integration for a flexible and sustainable workplace has been achieved by designing a core ceiling structure called ‘HALO’. HALO provides tracks for the interchangeable division of space and integrates all ceiling equipment, curtain track, lamps, and MEP. 

Having successfully achieved the vision of creating a work environment that embodies transparency, flexibility, and wellbeing, the China Merchants Tower with the renovated Dome has achieved a LEED Platinum certification. 

Tower Dome drawing

Why was it better than defaulting to demolition?

Completed in 1998, the China Merchants Tower has been a fixture in Beijing’s city skyline for over 25 years. As one of Beijing’s older towers, the decision to pursue an adaptive reuse approach was one that looks to ensure an architectural legacy for the city moving forwards – starting as the city means to go on.

Alongside the decision not to demolish the building, the preservation of the dome safeguards access to the incredible 360-degree panoramic view of the CBD skyline as well as the unique feature of the dome itself – no doubt contributing to the outcome of the space being sold before the furniture was moved in.

Tower Dome diagram

‘Less is more’ approach to adaptive reuse.”

Before & after site photographs.

Tower Dome Interiors
Tower Dome Interiors stairs

Lessons learnt/problems solved?

There were two main takeaways from the adaptation of the China Merchants Tower Dome:

Less is more. The extraction of feature elements can often be more about a simplified design approach than the addition of unnecessary aspects. By minimizing the number of additions, the unique elements chosen to be retained can be made features again – adding an element of surprise. In the case of China Merchants Dome Renovation, this approach enabled a certain ‘heaviness’ to be avoided – allowing the space to feel light and airy.  

Character is irreplaceable.  While the decision to retain the dome – and its hexagonal structure certainly required some in-depth problems solving in terms of lighting, layout and flow, the unique result could not be replicated. The integration of modern energy updates like lighting and air conditioning required some ingenuity due to the dome’s unique shape, resulting in the addition of the office’s unique HALO lighting approach 

Tower Dome Halo detail
Tower Dome Halo detail

“The simplicity of this project is what makes it special. By enhancing the existing architectural transparency, our design holistically connected the floors and blurs the boundaries between outside and inside, creating a highly flexible and the ultimate human centric workspace.”

Tower Dome Interior stairs
Tower Dome Interior stairs curtain detail
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Adaptive Reuse: China Merchants Tower Dome