It is rare that a project from MAD Architects crosses our desk and doesn't boast some eye-catching curves. Much like the all-white conference center planned for the Chinese mountains or the sports campus that will take the shape of green undulating hills, a new observation tower designed by MAD for a Rotterdam is overtly futuristic, and will seek to bring new life to one of the city's more historically significant structures.

As the setting for one of Europe's oldest Chinatowns, the Fenix warehouse on Rotterdam's Katendrecht peninsula was home to opium merchants in the early 1900s, and also hosted the Netherlands' first ever Chinese restaurant. Beyond that, it was once one of the largest warehouses in the world, and its surrounding riverbanks were the point of departure for millions of European immigrants headed for Ellis Island.

A restoration by Rotterdam-based developer Bureau Polderman will seek to honor the history of the warehouse, while making it a modern-day attraction in its own right. The first floor will be a space dedicated to celebrating Rotterdam's history of migration and will seek to put a "human face" to those stories.

"The Fenix Warehouse will become a landmark for all those millions who left Europe from the banks of the Maas, and for everybody arriving today," says Wim Pijbes, director of the Droom en Daad foundation, which commissioned MAD Architects for the work. "It offers a great future for Rotterdam's past."

That first floor space will be joined with the ground floor and the observation tower above by way of a spectacular spiraling staircase, which winds its way up through an atrium to the viewing platform above the roof. This will offer panoramic views of the surroundings and appears a lot like a waterslide from a distance, though it is unclear whether visitors will be allowed to slide to the bottom.

"We are proud to realize a dynamic transformation of the historical warehouse that will encourage people to move through the space, and be enjoyed by the community," said Ma Yansong, founder of MAD Architects. "It will lift body and mind, and be a place of pleasure and contemplation. The Fenix will inspire wonder and exploration about the past, the present, and the future."

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