Shanghai Superflux

Experimental and creative interior designs in Shanghai


Although Xi’s criticisms have since shaped official government guidelines regarding the construction of public buildings, broader architectural practice in China has not yet been fully impeded. Here, below, we review a selection of interior projects completed over the past few years in Shanghai to illustrate how local architects continue to experiment and push boundaries. The three highlighted projects illustrate just some of the innovative approaches employed by architects working in China. Their methods – which range from experimenting with tools, processes and material pairings, to different ways of organising space, – not only offer fresh ways of encountering and moving through buildings, but also add to the multi-dimensional experiences that have come to define urban Shanghai. While Xi’s words may have signalled the end for “weird” architecture in China, it seems that there is still actually much to play for.

Sissi’s Wonderland Library
by Muxin Design Studio

Devised by Muxin Design Studio, Sissi’s Wonderland Library for children poetically encapsulates the idea of learning through play. Designed to resemble a giant toy, the space encourages exploration through a series of curved pathways and arched doorways that lead to semi-private alcoves. Lined in wood, these areas feature low-level benches where children can sit and read, either on their own or with their parents, as well as small arched windows that frame leafy plants, much like traditional Chinese ink paintings.

The library’s main space is a central, circular-shaped reading and play zone intended for more active socialising. Enclosed by a wooden bookshelf that extends inwards to form a bench, this area is finished with a green, grass-like rug, and complemented by a black ceiling that simulates the night sky when the lights are on. The light-toned materials otherwise used throughout contribute to an overall welcoming atmosphere, inviting children – in the words of the architects – to “freely explore, discover and create their own lively experience”, sparking creativity and imagination.

The Hub Performance and Exhibition Centre by architects Neri & Hu

Inspired by forest tree canopies and rock formations, The Hub Performance and Exhibition Centre by architects Neri & Hu aims to evoke a calming, nature-like environment. The main atrium of this mixed-use complex demonstrates an eye-catching ceiling constructed of walnut- and oak-covered aluminium sticks arranged to look like “a floating canopy”. The feature sharply stands out from the rest of the centre’s cavern-like interior, clad in striped grey sandstone to mirror the striated surfaces of carved rock.

Contrasting materials similarly characterise other spaces in the complex. A 750-seat auditorium, for instance, exemplifies a mix of hard stone walls and softer wooden slat screens – the latter referencing ancient Chinese bamboo slips, once used to record stories. Elsewhere, bars take the form of wooden houses “carved into the rock”, and metal trellises offer privacy in open and spacious VIP rooms. Even the bathrooms, which feature golden toilet cubicles that adjoin green-tiled washrooms, have received the special Neri & Hu treatment.

The Jade Museum by Archi-Union

For Shanghai’s Jade Museum, architecture firm Archi-Union used digital design tools to reconfigure the gallery’s interior layout, translating “the folding of circulation flows into [the] folding of space itself”. The result is a twisted concrete staircase that forms a spiralling route through three split-level floors, providing access to exhibition areas, bars, a tearoom, and even a meditation room. While digital fabrication often plays a central role in Archi-Union’s practice, these techniques were key to reducing both waste and costs for this project without compromising the integrity of its unique geometric design.

Words by Zara Arshad for Molteni&C Magazine 13.
The Hub Performance Center photos: Dirk Weiblen

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