This is a 5-storey office design project for an underground utility management and detection company in Shanghai.
This office block is a typical modernist architecture of over 40 years old. It was built by assembling precast concrete slabs onsite, which was a popular building method at that time due to high efficiency and low cost. In this way, all the walls in the building are load-bearing, and no partitioning can be modified. This thus becomes the limitation on the space allocation of this project. After mechanical analysis, we removed some of the walls on the top floor and added a steel frame to support the roof. The tidy partition of having ‘one central corridor with small rooms on two sides’ remains on all levels.
A building full of history is a vehicle of memory. The site was originally a cattle farm. It then became a national agricultural supplier’s office building, of which the façade and interior has been used for years. The building is surrounded by typical Shanghai houses in a residential area. In order for the building to be in harmony with the local community and surroundings, the designer has chosen to keep historical elements like the original windows, staircase handles and walls as the framework and repaint them white, so that the story of the building unfolds quietly through the pale traces of time.
The client is an underground utilities management and detection company. They specialize in providing underground detection services for public utilities and urban infrastructures by using high technologies like micro-robots. The company’s philosophy is ‘seeing the invisible’. Therefore in this project, a modern and minimal central corridor is specially designed in which the rooms of different functions on the two sides are neatly concealed, while the doors to these rooms are subtly revealed.
The idea of this project comes from Old Shanghai. The material copper is used as the thematic design language. All signage, door frames and decorations are made of copper to revitalize the space as well as to gently manifest the unique charm of Old Shanghai. Outside the window are typical old Shanghai-styled houses. The retro design exactly links up the worlds in- and outside the building.
Since the height of each floor and the space of each partition is relatively small, the ceilings of the office rooms are made of custom-designed aluminium profiles to functionally fulfil the acoustic requirement. For example, in the meeting room, the undulated ceiling made with perforated aluminium profiles not only absorbs sound waves, but also cleverly hides the light source from direct sight to produce comfortable illumination.
The client is a Chinese company with many foreign clienteles and suppliers visiting them. In order to strengthen such a unique identity of the company, details with Chinese characteristics are designed to reflect the company’s cultural background and values, such as the marble tea table, the peony-shaped carpet that symbolizes ‘prosperity’, and the copper hanging decoration that signifies ‘balance’.