The cityscape of Nanchang, a city of 5 million people in the interior of China, is dotted with “30-story towers, which all look alike,” says Jan Lorenc, founder of Lorenc + Yoo, a Roswelldesign and architectural office.
But amid the dreary monotony of the skyscrapers lies something altogether different: a mixed-use complex that looks remarkably like the Swiss city ââof Alfalfa.
âA lot of people live in these indescribable towers, and some have traveled to Europe and liked what they saw. Some developers have decided to give these people something special – a sense of belonging to a community that has stores with a personality and buildings that have a different look. It’s hard to feel part of a community in a 30-story tower, âsays Lorenc.
His 10-person cabinet is part of a coalition of architects and designers building a reproduction of the medieval Swiss city, with an old-looking church and a statue of Guillaume Tell. This is an example of work available to the company since it started exporting its services, working with some of the biggest developers in China and on major projects in other countries, either directly or through the through relationships with larger US companies.
The most recent project follows a few other Chinese mixed-use projects that Lorenc + Yoo has put its mark on as the country’s new affluent class seeks to invest in more upscale and expressive housing.
âLiving and working in our development and in similar European-designed cities in China is a bit of an ego affair,â Mr. Lorenc said. âBut it’s no different living in an upscale Manhattan apartment next to Central Park as opposed to a three-story apartment with no elevator. It’s ego on both sides – residents and developers. It’s about living in a fabulously designed building with a European vibe.
The Nanchang project is designed by Shanghai-based Greenland with SWA Group of Sausalito, California Delivering a Swiss experience from scratch isn’t as easy as you might think – and that’s why SWA Group called on Lorenc + Yoo.
“You don’t want this to look trite, like a Hollywood to organise; same Disney do not do that. It wears out, âsays Lorenc.
The work of his company is therefore to make this new medieval city authentic. They recommended that the buildings be of different heights with looks that don’t scream 17th century Lucerne. âCities like Lucerne are hundreds of years old and buildings were built in different centuries. They were built in increments, and each has its own personality. Our job was to make the new city more authentic.
The project is the size of a small town with a few hundred condo units as well as a significant mix of retail and office space. The church is fast becoming a favorite haunt for marrying couples.
When he got the deal for Eastern Lucerne , the Pole M. Lorenc and his partner, Chung-Youl Yoo, visited Lucerne and observed how the different architectures, art, wells and signage all mixed in one way or another to create a vibrant and livable city. They created a notebook filled with the city’s architecture, including cobblestones, lighting, clock towers, colors, roof lines, bell towers, flags, and sculpture. They noticed that the color blue also seemed to be circulating throughout the city.
They brought these considerations to the Chinese project. Much like the original, they recommended that various colors of blue be sprinkled throughout the city in its signs and architectural flourishes. To make the city more authentic, they recommended the Swiss spelling of the city, Lucerne, instead of the American “Lucerne”.
In this project and others like Fish in the Garden and Vanke Opalus in China, Mr. Lorenc’s firm delivers the âstory,â he says.
âCoherence is a visual experience and in China they let us do all of these things, whereas in America they have specialists,â Mr. Lorenc said. âWe can work on lighting, patterns on buildings, graphics, architectural jewelry.
Lorenc hopes his American clients will see the depth and breadth of his company’s work in China and give them the opportunity to play a more comprehensive role in other projects. âFrank Lloyd Wright designed his own lights,â he noted.
He said his firm’s talents are especially important in China where “they are in such a rush to complete every project as quickly as possible that they can hire five architects.” It’s a recipe for disaster in design consistency, giving a rushed “cut and paste” look, he says. Lorenc + Yoo âmakes sure that all the buildings and the ambiance speak the same language. We even redesigned the interior of the marketing center to give it an upscale experience, âhe said, alluding to the showroom where customers see what a condo looks like and can pre-purchase. before construction.
The project was scheduled to open on October 1, which marks the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, but it missed the mark. The other âbest dayâ to open a project is Labor Day in China, May 1, and Lorenc believes the developers are aiming for that day.
His firm’s business is international, with about a third in China, a third in the Middle East, and the rest primarily in the United States. Ironically, although his partner is Korean, Lorenc says Asian companies prefer to work with Americans.
âIt only happens in Asia, but they buy a Western company and they want the face of that company to be a Western one,â he says. “Even in Korea.”