Designed and run by NaturalBuild, this shared office and event space occupies the top floor of a former warehouse building that used to be owned by Huang Jinrong, once a tycoon of Shanghai’s most notorious gangsters. The office is situated at the South Bund historic dockyards of Shanghai.
The plan is laid out in a dumbbell shape. One end of the dumbbell facing the river is envisioned as a container of public activities, while an open-plan workspace with over 60 rentable desk spaces takes up the other end. In-between, a circulation spine runs through the whole space, programmatically connecting the front and the rear. Lining this corridor are enclosed private offices and a glassed conference room.
At the entrance, the full height ceiling is kept to canopy the social gathering space. A painting in shades of white beyond the reception desk indicates the nature of the unbranded environment. A floor-to-roof gable wall demarcates the threshold of the corridor and folds back to cover the lowered space where exhibitions, lectures, seminars, or screenings can take place. With a lower ceiling and clustered sofas, a seating area on the side offers a calm and informal atmosphere for people to brainstorm new ideas or simply take a break. All these areas have flexible furniture arrangements to host various pop-up events, served by a small kitchen.
On another scale, the use of add-on materials has been minimized. By gently stripping back decaying layers of wood and plaster, treating the existing timber structure, and combining this with utilitarian and inexpensive materials, a raw aesthetic has been created not dissimilar to the original warehouse. This low-tech environment has been furnished with bespoke metalwork desks that echo the industrial window frames. The original wide plank wood flooring is kept and repaired in spite of its irregular surface,
As a whole, the design respects and celebrates the historical vernacular of the city. The renovated space evokes a sense of contradiction while still provides a coherent experience throughout. It addresses a new type of working space, a connective environment where nomadic individuals can work independently in a community that generates a level of synergy.