Huaian City, situated in northern Jiangsu province, is home to the finest reserve of underground salt mines in China. Since 2008 the city has been active in developing an advanced industrial zone for salt-chemical related industries. This project by WZWX Architecture Group is a 900 m2 laboratory for a world-class medical-grade salt plant. The plant incorporates state of the art production technology, yielding 30 tonnes per annum of medical grade salt which is refined into a range of specialized products for medical, food, beverage and cosmetic industrial applications.
Within the laboratory a team of technicians carry out essential quality control and testing procedures for various segments of the production process. The program includes laboratories, ultra-clean rooms, chemical testing rooms, office spaces, chemical and samples storage, a central control-and-monitoring room and a generous lobby and reception area. Purity is an essential focus of the salt production process and a consistent driving concept for the architectural and interior design. The plan organization is conceived as a regular array of NaCl salt crystals. A series of offset cubic protrusions – white-washed walls with full-height glazing – accommodates each of the key functions. While the main building geometries are rectilinear, entrances and key elevations are characterized by contrasting fluid curvatures to give various welcoming gestures to visitors and staff.
“Water” is an essential element within the brine-to-salt extraction process and therefore celebrated as a major design feature. The building is poised beside a large reflecting pond, as if floating on water. Rainwater is collected here from the roof to provide evaporative cooling effect during the hot extended summers, as well as a source of irrigation water for the surrounding open landscaped areas. Meandering fine pebble pathways demarcate the edges of the pond. A generous stone walkway traverses the water surface to lead visitors toward the main entry. By night, underwater lighting illuminates the façades and brings to life mirror-like reflections.
The interior is crisp and restrained – white walls, linear strip lighting and light-colored tiles characterize the spaces. In key rooms, a warmer atmosphere is conjured by combining wood and wood-grained exposed concrete. Full height low-emissivity glazing provides ample daylighting and pleasant views of the Jiangsu countryside from the workspaces.
Design and info © WZWX Architecture Group
Images © Louis Y.S Liu