• The 7 year niche of Jato

    30 November 2020
    Shenyang Jiuwu Culture City
    ’Tree of knowledge’ is the theme of Shenyang Jiuwu Culture City, with each leaf symbolising a page. JATO transformed a wide circular stairway into a cosy tree under which readers can nestle and flip the pages. The space also serves as a venue for talks, seminars, book launches and other events. With its inviting atmosphere, optimal lighting and an integral cafe, the cultural plaza has become one of the city’s leisure hotspots.

    In business, making it to the seventh year is quite an achievement; thriving for seven years is extraordinary. Over this time the architects and designers at JATO have emerged as rising stars in the field of master planning and carved out a growing niche in urban revitalisation.

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    “While our projects vary in size and scope, one commonality is that we liaise with our clients very early on – sometimes as early as the land acquisition stage. This allows us time to communicate with the client, to comprehensively explore the historical, artistic and economic potential of each redevelopment and weigh the options with the client team.”

    JATO also engages consultants and engineers in LEED and WELL early in the design stage so that sustainability is built in, not added in as an afterthought.

    Clients are made aware of the increased valuation from day one, says the team, as well as the long-term cost savings.

    Nanchang Zhengshen Commercial Development
    The Nanchang Zhengshen Commercial Development, a mega mixed-use complex, is located in the vicinity of Xihu District between Nanchang’s old town and new CBD. JATO emplaced a series of landscaped terraces interspersed with retail spaces to link up a five-star leisure hotel, corporate and co-working office blocks; and connect people within the vast 280,000m2 site, and with its historic past. The first phase of construction was completed in mid-2019.

    Talking team and design ideology

    “Over the years, we have evolved into an interdisciplinary firm with talented architects, interior designers and graphic designers collaborating seamlessly.

    This gives us a distinct advantage in roles like master planning, which requires a unified, holistic vision.”

    JATO’s team is young and diverse. Many members gained experience at renowned practices around the world prior to joining the firm. An open-plan studio helps to cultivate an open, non-hierarchical culture where problems can be reframed and resolved and ideas can be cross-fertilised. It allows the team to leverage its collective ingenuity, to do things better – and differently.

    “Design is a very broad term and, like ‘design thinking’, ‘design language’, etc, is a bit overused when defining what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For us, the value of a design is measured by answering two questions: Does it solve problems? We think deeply to discover the challenges and opportunities of each project, to ensure that our design solutions resolve current issues and realise its future potential. For instance, greener buildings that support human wellbeing, enhanced circulation that connects people and businesses, inspiring workspaces that attract and retain talent… Does it connect people, adding social as well as economic value? By capturing and amplifying each site’s unique history and characteristics, we turn structures into landmarks, cocreating social hubs that are loved – not just liked – by people.”

    Chengdu Jinniu District Mixed-Use Development
    Located at the heart of Chengdu, the 298,000m2 Jinniu District Mixed-Use Development is dispersed across five separate land plots where there once was a bustling timber processing factory. JATO introduced a series of bridges, decked with wood-textured stone planks, to integrate the metro hub, retail spaces, luxury serviced apartments and other elements as a nexus which relates closely with the surrounding urban fabric and river course.

    How to define urban revitalisation

    Old buildings are probably what immediately come to mind – restoring and reusing heritage buildings, as opposed to tearing them down and ebuilding. “The way we define urban revitalisation is more encompassing; we see the demand for new-build to taper off and we see redevelop existing stock as a more sustainable approach that is more in line with prevalent planning policy.

    Hence we work with developers and municipal councils to rethink, readapt and reinvigorate existing property or clusters of adjacent properties, giving them a new lease on life while increasing their overall value from a commercial and social perspective.”

    The greatest rewards

    Shanghai Lujiazu Gala Mall
    Gala Mall is located in Lujiazui, Shanghai’s original gateway and home to a number of shipyards since the 1850s. JATO brought a sense of maritime nostalgia into their refurbishment of the mall, in the form of ocean liner-like decking, cabins and gangways. The redevelopment draws a diverse demographic of patrons, who can enjoy the modern facilities while reminiscing about its rich history.

    “The design process is challenging and rewarding at the same time! There are always many challenges to resolve and we always ask ourselves a lot of questions in order to arrive at the best solution. We treat each project as one-of-a-kind; there’s no set formula or shortcut for devising design solutions. As a project commences, there’s already a vast amount of information, parameters and constraints on the table.

    We will dig even deeper through site visits and further research, as we believe that ‘the better the question, the better the answer’. This initial project stage is a case of serious information overload.”

    Next comes digesting and contemplating. JATO seeks out cues and inspirations inwardly as well as outwardly, as the source of new ideas.

    The team then carries out rigorous preliminary feasibility studies, until they have developed solid propositions. “Then things really start to fall into place!”

    JATO Design Team

    Looking forward

    JATO’s team has gained substantial experience in mixed-use, workspace and transit hub projects within greater China and as mentioned earlier, they have noticed a shift from new-build to redevelopment. As populations mature in many areas, the team is looking to incorporate elderly care/nursing home facilities into some of their projects as a thoughtful complement to the community. JATO has received project enquiries from Vietnam and Myanmar and as cities like Ho Chi Minh City have rapidly developed with full infrastructure, the firm sees lots of opportunity for projects at different scales – from master planning to architecture and interior design.

    For further details about Jato, please visit jato.hk.

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