MVRDV transform shopping mall into urban lagoon

13 March 2020
  • Daria Scagliola
  • Daria Scagliola
  • Daria Scagliola



Tainan Spring reconnects waterfront with city centre

A former city-centre shopping mall in Tainan has been transformed into an urban lagoon reconnecting the city to its waterfront. Designed by MVRDV and commissioned by the City Government, Tainan Spring is an example of how abandoned retail spaces can be adapted for new uses. Now open to the public, the scheme will take several years to be fully realised, as freshly planted beds grow into the jungle-like gardens outlined in the plans.

The China-Town Mall was built on top of the old harbour next to the Tainan Canal in 1983, at a time when city planners moved away from developing traditional marine industries. Following the implementation of the new master plan, the underground parking level has become a sunken public plaza with an urban pool. Surrounded by a shadowed arcade, this space hosts playgrounds, gathering spaces, and a stage for performances.

A key part of MVRDV’s design strategy was to bring greenery to the city. As a result, large areas of planting make use of local species mixed together to emulate the natural landscape located to the east of Tainan. Winy Maas, founding partner at MVRDV, said: “Tainan is a very grey city. With the reintroduction of the jungle to every place that was possible, the city is reintegrating into the surrounding landscape.”

A portion of the mall’s basement level has been exposed with a glass floor, allowing people to further understand the history of the site. The foundations of the former structure are reminiscent of a contemporary Roman Forum, marking the historical decision to close a port in favour of a mall. Winy Maas stated: “In Tainan Spring, people can bathe in the overgrown remains of a shopping mall. Children will soon be swimming in the ruins of the past – how fantastic is that?”

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

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