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Otago architects take fashion house project to world stage

Dunedin-based Architecture van Brandenburg will exhibit in Italy its architecture and models for Chinese fashion house Marisfrolg’s new HQ in Shenzhen, China.

The exhibition, titled Van Brandenburg – Unfurling, will be on show at Venice’s Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art from June until November.

Architecture van Brandenburg is led by Fred van Brandenburg and his sons Damien and Luca, and Fred says the exhibition is a chance to showcase a different direction than the one it’s typically known for, having worked on Kiwi destination buildings like Huka Lodge, Millbrook and Wharekauhau Lodge.

The unfurling fern is “a fitting reference to the silver fern of New Zealand,” says Fred. “It’s also an appropriate analogy given that the entire progression happened in New Zealand, mostly assisted by a talented team of young New Zealanders – graduates from Dunedin’s Otago Polytechnic.”

He told Idealog last year that the building was “a sculpture people can reside in”.

The project consists of five buildings on a 120,000m2 site, with 60 China-based designers and engineers creating blueprints. Marisfrolg spent $1 billion on the project.

Van Brandenburg began his Kiwi architectural design career when he moved from South Africa to Queenstown in 1988. He was inspired to change his style after a visit to Barcelona in 2005 to see the cathedrals designed by Antoni Gaudi. He says he now follows a nature-inspired theme, referencing leaves and birds in flight.

“We are influenced by how nature has figured out a way to combat gravity, resulting in an emphasis on curvilinear forms.”

He says he was given free rein on the Marisfrolg site. “They had no preconception of what they wanted. I stipulated that it would not be glass, marble, and chrome, but rather I would give them a design that would contain natural and recycled materials – stone, recycled bricks and ceramics; found materials that fit with our references to nature.”

The fashion headquarters are expected to be completed by 2017. The complex comprises a catwalk, design studios, a boutique hotel, restaurants, fashion amenities and general administration, set in a 4.8 hectare garden with ponds to capture the rain run-off from their leaf-like roofs.

Otago Polytechnic began collaborating on the project in 2007 when design and innovation staff and students were deployed.

“We worked together on the original Marisfrolg proposal using the Otago Polytechnic expertise including their staff and digital modelling equipment,” says Fred.

The Marisfrolg HQ complex in Shenzhen, due for completion in 2017.

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