MINI revealed its first Mini Living concept apartment installation at Salone de Mobile in Milan last year, featuring folding modules to create a shareable, reconfigurable space for inner-city habitation. This was followed this year at the same event by the eco-minded three-floor "Breathe" house installation, which was squeezed into a 50 sq-m (538 sq-ft) urban plot. Now, for the first time, the company will be going beyond concepts with an actual building project in Shanghai.

In partnership with Chinese project developer Nova Property Investment Co., Mini is set to convert an abandoned paint factory in the Jing'An district of Shanghai. The Mini Living project will see the site and existing buildings converted into a series of tiny apartments, co-working spaces and communal facilities, with the addition of cultural activities, rooftop farming and car-sharing.

"Mini has always addressed the challenges and needs of people living in cities," Oke Hauser, Creative Lead at Mini Living tells New Atlas. "Mobility in cities never takes place in a vacuum, but is part of the urban environment as a whole. That's why the idea of transferring Mini's expertise from the automotive sector to architectural concepts for urban living – and therefore starting the initiative Mini Living – have seemed like a natural progression. With the project in Shanghai, the concept ideas are incorporated into an actual co-living project."

The project in Shanghai features a unique design that draws upon the city's rich heritage and present urban landscape. Materials such as brick and wood will be used to reflect traditional Chinese architecture alongside shiny, colorful surfaces to add a contemporary feel to the structure.

A group of six buildings will be transformed to include a series of living clusters made up of two to 10 units each, featuring communal living and kitchen zones. The idea is that small private apartments will be complemented by larger shared-use zones. The hub will also feature exhibition areas, a food market, gardens, play areas, shops and restaurants. In addition, the shared lobby space and roof terraces have been designed to provide an inviting social environment for the community as a whole to come together and connect.

"By converting an existing building structure, Mini Living is making an important contribution to sustainability – unlike with a new build," says Hauser. "Planting of vegetation on the roof terrace and front facade, for example, helps to improve the urban micro-climate. The roofs offer "urban farming" potential, i.e. the chance for residents to grow their own food."

There are plans to include two different sized apartment options. A smaller one-bedroom apartment design will have access to the shared kitchen and community areas, while a larger two-bedroom apartment will have its own private kitchen included. Additional rooms and guests rooms will also be available to tenants and can be booked for visiting friends, family or short-stay guests. Each living cluster will also have additional facilities and rooms available for private bookings, such as private spa, a kitchen, working and eating spaces.

"The plan is also to integrate transformative and moving interior details into the apartments that allow residents to share the functions of their units with the communal space," says Hauser. "Bookable rooms for work, events, sport and spa facilities will be available on a flexible basis to suit each resident's needs and lifestyle beyond their apartments. We're [also] planning the integration of approximately five to eight parking spaces into the complex for ReachNow [carsharing] vehicles that will only be Mini models."

Work is set to begin later this year, with the construction process spanning three main steps. These include the removal of a small building to open the compound to the public and provide a roofed plaza; the renovation process for the remaining buildings; and construction of circulation elements such as bridges and platforms to link the buildings.

"The greatest quality of Mini Living in Shanghai is its ability to fit big lifestyles into a small footprint," says Hauser. "Based on the creative use of space, Mini Living in Shanghai will offer compact and cleverly designed apartments embedded in the shared spaces of an inspiring community. Our design approach is based on a relatively small personal space without sacrifices; we believe you can "live small" and still have it all."

Source: BMW Group

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