Shanghai, China, 2021
In our ongoing collaboration with HARMAY, we have taken our community-centric design to the street with this new store typology. This building is a love letter to the community that surrounds it. With the historic fang as inspiration, old Shanghai neighbourhoods, and alleyways, this neighbourhood cornerstone re-interprets the spirit and openness of the Shanghai alley life.
It is an eclectic yet authentic community in an area where locals have lived for decades and now recently mix with a vibrant young tourist crowd. By opening up the whole ground floor to the public, this corner building becomes a place the community can call their own, one that fits and welcomes all. A place where everyone can come together, a place where the old and new Shanghai meet, creating something unique, activating its new connections.
With a sustainable look on re-use, this building is getting its second or third life. A new life that celebrates its past—honoring the old stories and telling a new one. These stories are sometimes imperfect and surprising but never dull, reflecting the community and energy surrounding it, layered and complex, new and old, local and visitors, with its messy encounters and beautiful moments.
Facing the street and open to the neighborhood, this new public plaza enables a small, diverse program and leaves space for street vendors who will facilitate this community vibe. A grand central staircase touches down, opening views towards the upper floors where the main retail space resides.
New life, new rules
The old building did not adhere to local fire codes, forcing us to connect the four floors with a central closed staircase. The staircase volume is designed to enable people to walk on top of the volume, too, Creating a scissor movement and surprising spatial experiences and encounters throughout the building.
This neutral stainless-steel volume takes you on a journey through the building connecting the different layers, From street to interior, public to private, and existing to new—a true neighborhood store.
Entering the second floor you step into a world that celebrates the unspoken boundaries between private and public space. A mix of floor finishes indicates a floorplan of the typical lane house. Different living areas spill out into the outdoor alley, private bedrooms vs. public kitchens, with the corner candy store cashier keeping an eye on it all.
This new layer lives within the original shell of the building. From the scars of the building, new ideas grow. Wooden display cases make new uses in the depth of the former window wall openings—not designing it for beauty but for what is required—this way exploring and creating the complexity and excitement of Shanghai lane life.
The third floor is a more straightforward affair. With its typical lane house tile, this floor is a neutral space, with no actual fixed program, used as a warehouse as we know it.
The surprising moments come from the views to the outside, scattered, looking over the lively street and fixating on the corner view where two roads collide and enabling you to look over the neighborhood from higher ground.
The fourth floor is an eclectic mirage of the program, inspired by those homemade add-on rooftop structures, where storage, social spaces, and green allotment terraces create a classic Shanghai rooftop hangout.
Winding up or down through the building or just watching the world go by on the plaza, the Harmay Fang gives an impression of local life, opening its inner belly, with all its messy encounters and richly layered spaces creating a place that is uniquely Shanghai. And we hope, uniquely yours.
Location: Shanghai, China
GFA: 880 sqm
Design Scope: Façade renovation and interior design
Design Principals: Wendy Saunders, Vincent de Graaf
Project Architect: Sheng Ling
Design Team: Dongkai Hu, Jerry Guo, Ning Cai, Yueyuan Jiao, Yan Jiao, Yi Zhang, Noel Wu, Shawn Zhang, Vincent Wen
FFE Team: Lili Cheng, Weisha Dai
VM: Victor Mongin, Baoer Wang
Photography: Dirk Weiblen,Bowen Gu