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The transformation into serviced apartments of two residential blocks located in Shanghai Former French Concession, encompassing architecture, landscape and interior design, reframed within the broader context of the regeneration and re-naturalization of city centers, as well as an exercise around the theme of luxury micro-apartments.
Low residential apartment blocks made their appearance in Shanghai as a consequence of the economic reforms introduced by the government in the late 1970s, often at the cost of the ‘erosion’ of the consistent carpet of lane houses so characteristic the historic city center. It rapidly became the defining typology of this early stage of urban densification, the first shift toward a higher urban density model that would have brought, starting from the late 80s, to the ‘vertical explosion’ of the city.
Often lacking either the decorated elegance of the lane houses and the imposing scale of the high rise, these apartment blocks constitute an unassuming yet diffuse presence peppering Shanghai oldest urban fabric. The renovation of two twins residential blocks located in the heart of the Former French Concession, repurposed as high-end serviced apartments, offered us the opportunity to rethink this typology, reframing it within the broader context of the regeneration of Shanghai downtown.
Complementary to a more standard process of facade renovation that brought back to life the buildings’ original mosaic decorations and moldings, we developed a modular ‘add-on’ facade screen system seamlessly developing along the two buildings’ facades, their roofs and the open spaces between them, connecting architecture and outdoor areas under one simple unifying gesture.
Far from being a merely formal devise, this ‘bar code’ absolves multiple functions, providing shadow above courtyards and roof terraces, the first converted in green spaces for the neighborhood, the latter in exclusive sun decks for the new apartments. Creating a discreet shelter for the air-con units previously littering the facades, and supporting the facades’ illumination, converting an anonymous facade into an eye catching landmark and a branding device nighttime.
Built out of natural wood and raw steel rebars,in line with a quest for natural, organic simplicity that we share with our client, these screens will be covered in time with climbing plants growing from planters installed on the roof terraces and in the courtyards, turning them into the ‘green-bar code’ we envisioned as a feasible, cost effective instrument for the re-naturalization of contemporary city centers like Shanghai Former French Concession. Natural wood and raw steel reappear as a leitmotif in the interiors public spaces, corridors and staircase. The design of the apartments interiors was in itself an exercise on luxury within extremely limited size. We developed three different typologies, 40m2 each, fully equipped for medium to long stay. Complementary to the apartment spaces the residents can enjoy a shared business center, a meeting room, a party-room with independent fully equipped pantry and an exclusive 200 sqm roof terrace complete with kitchen, barbeque and sun deck.
Location: Shanghai, China
Chief Architects: Andrea Destefanis, Filippo Gabbiani
Design Manager: Pietro Peryon
Design Team: Chang Liu, Liding Yu, Anna -Maria Austerweil, Seven Shi, Elisabetta
Photographs: Charlie Xia