Events venue? Bar? Social space? Office? Fashion house? WeWork’s location in Weihai Lu, Shanghai, muddies the waters, but immediately sets you at ease. In fact, it makes you want to stay for a while.
This is precisely the mission of the founders of the WeWork co-working spaces organization, which has offices all over the world. “When we began in 2010,” explain Miguel McKelvey, Adam Neumann and Rebekah Neumann (all very young), “we wanted more than one shared space to work – the aim was to build a community, a place in which you can preserve your own individuality, but be part of a group.”
The Linehouse architecture and interior design firm perfectly interpreted this concept, investigating the rituals of everyday life by transforming them into performances. A holistic approach that, through various creative disciplines, creates different experiences for those who enjoy them.
The emotional impact begins with the building, a brick structure built at the start of the century in a residential district in the heart of Shanghai. It once hosted an opium factory and later an artist’s residence.
The first act was to celebrate the past of this intense structure with joyful, fun brushstrokes, giving it the atmosphere of a grand hotel that takes the hand of those who enter and leads them on an unexpected journey of extravagance, curiosity and festivity. After crossing the traditional Chinese alley and entering the road, you find yourself before walls and asphalt painted pink, with a series of festive hanging lights. The designers played with the existing layer of historic architectural elements and industrial “additions”, placing the reception where the encounter between the two elements is most evident.
The reception counter is covered with wood panels salvaged from the site, surrounded by a concrete base. A bronze grill houses hanging lamps, creating a line design and a blue neon sign, found in a gallery of modern design pieces of the 20th century, with the words “Ring For Service”.
Inside, the existing steel structure is highlighted by the ivy green colour with which it has been repainted, enhanced by a staircase that snakes along a circulation space connecting it to the three upper floors: it is fun and imposing, covered with triangular oak panels and featuring an outer part coloured with different shades of blue that lend it different colour intensities depending on the position.
Once you reach the top, you can continue to smile with wallpaper depicting giant, hand-painted gold-coloured poppy flowers. The original brick and stone façade of the central atrium was maintained but enriched by an enchanting courtyard that redefines the space and hosts various lounges and informal areas. Marble, the material used here, brings more colour with diagonal stripes in blue, green, pink and pastel grey that involve both the walls and the floor, producing a rug effect.
All around, a bronze structure recreates the room effect in an area extended with mirrors, artworks and hanging shelves. Meanwhile a real light installation, custom-designed and made up of a mesh of wiring and hooks with glass units, plays a functional but decorative role.
The bar, which has a tropical style, is also a pleasant surprise, featuring wallpaper that envelops the perimeter walls with designs of ‘20s Shanghai women reinterpreted with zebra-patterned clothes and flashy jewels.
Everything is custom-designed and custom-made, including the bathroom tiles with pink and green geometric designs, the mirror and the original bronze wall lights.
Location: 696 Weihai Road, Shanghai, China
Architectural and interior design: Linehouse
Furnishings: custom-designed by Linehouse and produced by local supplier, Why Knot, Muuto, Very Good & Proper, Hay
Lightings: lighting installation custom-designed by Linehouse, Tiwu Design, Bentu, Jamy Yang
Photo Credits: Jonathan Leijonhufvud, Dirk Weiblen