780 Tianshan Road, Shanghai (40-Year-Old Office Block) by LAM Wai Ming
2011 - 2012, Bronze A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner
The client specializes 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, at the same time the doors to these rooms are subtly revealed.
This office block is a 40-year-old modernistic architecture. Original elements like window frames and staircase handles are kept and repainted white to allow the building’s story unfold quietly through the pale traces of time. Brass is used as the design language to express the Old Shanghai theme. All signage, door frames and decorations are made of brass 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. Also, since this Chinese corporate client often meet with foreign guests, Chinese details are designed to reflect its cultural background and values, such as marble tea table, peony-shaped carpet symbolizing “prosperity”, and brass hanging decoration that signifies “balance”.
Design Challenges
This office block is a typical modernistic 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.
Production Technology
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.
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