How a multi-use cultural venue in Shenzhen contemporizes traditional Chinese design

Shenzhen – Not just a bar, theatre or activity space alone, mixed-use facility Morph in Shenzhen integrates all three. Morph’s makers saw an opportunity to create a new kind of social environment to suit the rapidly evolving cityscape – nearby, there’s a sprawling business circle and urban park. Local studio Various Associates handled the development of the vibrant umbrella space, which pays homage to – and gives a modern twist to – aspects of age-old Chinese design.

Many projects completed recently in China reflect a meeting of classic and contemporary design cues. ‘We wanted to utilize some traditional and local materials to collide with the modern interior structural forms,’ explains a spokesperson for the studio, ‘and to fuse old Chinese elements with modern international design and aesthetics in an innovative manner.’

Colours best express this: highly saturated red, blue, black, yellow and gold hues – consistent with the symbolic colours of the five natural elements, wuxing – create visual highlights by way of vivid installations, surfaces and furnishings. A diversified material palette imparts a certain cinematic ambience: walls and ceilings are mostly clad in sand-coloured Italian travertine, with the exception of matte black surfaces featuring the same precious traditional tiling seen on palace floors in the Forbidden City. Additionally, the high-chroma blue material that wraps curved entranceways was hand-dyed by experienced craftsmen. ‘Through this project, Various Associates explored and worked out a solution to tackle the oblivion and disappearance of traditional Chinese materials.’

Able to accommodate 100 people, the 1,000-sq-m venue facilitates cultural interactions between visitors. Functional areas such as a bar, lounge, VIP room and cocktail kitchen are positioned around a 7-m-tall activity space. This set-up can be rearranged to suit whichever event is taking place.

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