MDO fuses Lingnan's intangible heritage with modern sensibilities in Vanke Joy Hill

This ceremonial community lounge for Chinese developer Vanke in Dongguan, China, features sculptural bamboo installations that celebrate the craft traditions of its cultural context.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Mar 24, 2022

"Designing is a journey of exploring," shares MDO (More Design Office) in an official release, while ruminating on their latest project - Vanke Joy Hill, a ceremonial community lounge for Shenzhen-based real estate developer Vanke in Dongguan, a city located within China’s Guangdong province. As a space that celebrates the traditions associated with the region’s roots in Lingnan culture, the project strives to connect Chinese images and symbols with the aesthetics of contemporary design, fashioning an elegant fusion that speaks to modern tastes. The Shanghai-based firm translated the region's spirit and intangible heritage into their interior design intervention through the medium of local crafts, drawing precedents from weaving techniques and archetypal elements of Lingnan-style architecture.

The community lounge and showroom project for Chinese developer Vanke highlights elements of Lingnan culture, beginning with the entrance area | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
The community lounge and showroom project for Chinese developer Vanke highlights elements of Lingnan culture, beginning with the entrance area Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY

"The team believes that a city's symbols are signs that connect people with its culture,” mentions MDO. They add, “The project explores the connection between oriental aesthetics and modern design, traditional images and modern symbols. The design team respects and uses reason to refine the urban culture of Dongguan, depicting forgotten memories through traditional handicrafts and materials, that transform them into new material elements through a continuous fusion of modern design.”

  • The reception area that follows is framed by a red stone colonnade that imparts a sense of ceremonial order to the space | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    The reception area that follows is framed by a red stone colonnade that imparts a sense of ceremonial order to the space Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY
  • A sculptural bamboo installation hangs from the ceiling, its contorted form serving as the highlight of the space | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    A sculptural bamboo installation hangs from the ceiling, its contorted form serving as the highlight of the space Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY

A desire to create a space that would emotionally resonate with visitors was among the key motivators behind the trajectory adopted by the Chinese architecture and design practice. In Vanke Joy Hill, this idea is brought to life through a play of scale, texture, form, and materiality, with intensive attention to detail given to how each element feels at home within its cultural context, and also puts its own spin on the contemporary luxury design aesthetic that is often associated with the lounge and showroom/sales centre typologies.

  • Traditional straw-knitting techniques were employed to create the installation | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    Traditional straw-knitting techniques were employed to create the installation Image: © Twenty One Florist Studio
  • The installation’s design was inspired by traditional Lingnan-style ‘wok-ear’ houses | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    The installation’s design was inspired by traditional Lingnan-style ‘wok-ear’ houses Image: © MDO
  • Diagram showing the conceptual form development of the installation | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    Diagram showing the conceptual form development of the installation Image: © MDO

From the entrance itself, this notion manifests in the dark wooden grilles that line the space’s periphery. At one corner, a sinuous silver form is placed behind a dark wooden desk bearing the space’s branding. Recalling the rhythmically-placed window grilles in traditional Lingnan dwellings, their use on the walls signifies shelter from wind and rain, as the sense of enclosure they bring to the area diverges from the high-ceilinged spaces beyond.

Diagram showing the conceptual form development of the installation | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
Red lacquered bookshelves serve as informal spatial segregators, contributing to the strong East Asian sensibilities seen in the interior design Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY

Framed by textured stone columns, the reception area that follows, takes form as a vast hall that oozes grandeur. The red stone used to create these elements - which define the space's strong sense of axial perspective, pulling one towards its opposing end - was selected as a reference to the red sandstone used in the region's vernacular architecture. Conversely, the foliated surfaces of the columns impart a "collage of textures" that veer away from the traditional norms associated with sandstone in architecture. Befitting its function, the colonnade radiates an air of ceremonial order, to welcome processions of guests into the hall. At the end of their journey, visitors will be greeted by a textured stone reception counter decorated with the classic Yoruba Rose lamp by German designer Ingo Maurer, preceding a glossy scarlet back wall.

  • The vast atrium deeper inside the plan features another bamboo installation suspended from its ceiling | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    The vast atrium deeper inside the plan features another bamboo installation suspended from its ceiling Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY, Art design © MDO and TIWU & Zhao Yun Studio
  • It is coloured bright red to complement the underlying chromatic themes within the space | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    It is coloured bright red to complement the underlying chromatic themes within the space Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY

Above, suspended from the soaring plane of the slatted wooden ceiling, a sculptural installation in bamboo is the main focal point of the space, directing the eye upwards. Inspired by the undulating profiles of roof structures that crown Lingnan-style 'wok-ear' houses, this element was realised through the plasticity of bamboo strips, which were intertwined using straw-knitting techniques prevalent in Dongguan - a further implementation of intangible heritage within the design. The dynamic, contorted appearance of the resulting installation stands out within the space, with its complex organic form providing a stark departure from the geometric design sensibilities and muted materiality that characterises the rest of the reception area.

  • The installation’s sinuous form morphs when viewed from different angles | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    The installation’s sinuous form morphs when viewed from different angles Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY, Art design © MDO and TIWU & Zhao Yun Studio
  • Its design also draws on ‘wok-ear’ houses, and was created using similar knitting techniques | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    Its design also draws on ‘wok-ear’ houses, and was created using similar knitting techniques Image: © MDO

Craft also finds its way into the atrium further inside, which features a similar installation suspended from its ceiling. Assembled through methods similar to those employed for the earlier installation, its rippling surface morphs when viewed from different angles, and is coloured bright red to blend in with the bold chromatic themes of this zone. Red lacquered bookshelves extend this aesthetic and take advantage of the space’s scale, acting as glossy, stylised partitions which contribute to the elegant Eastern sensibility that permeates the overall design.

  • The bar area features Catellani & Smith’s PostKrisi lamp | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    The bar area features Catellani & Smith’s PostKrisi lamp Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY, Art design © MDO and TIWU & Zhao Yun Studio
  • MDO collaborated with TIWU and Zhao Yun Studio on the furniture designs in the space | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    MDO collaborated with TIWU and Zhao Yun Studio on the furniture designs in the space Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY

MDO collaborated with TIWU and Zhao Yun Studio on a number of elements, including the furniture designs that adorn the atrium - which were influenced by traditional paper cutting and folding techniques, as well as mortise and tenon joinery systems. As one side of the space flows into an external sit-out, separated by louvred clerestory windows, the other leads into a bar area that rests beneath a fibreglass PostKrisi lamp by Catellani & Smith, resembling a delicate lunar fragment floating over it.

  • The furniture designs draw from traditional paper cutting and folding techniques | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    The furniture designs draw from traditional paper cutting and folding techniques Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY
  • Wooden grilles and slats are a staple feature throughout the design, symbolising refuge from the elements like their counterparts in Lingnan architecture | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    Wooden grilles and slats are a staple feature throughout the design, symbolising refuge from the elements like their counterparts in Lingnan architecture Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY

Vanke Joy Hill also contains a tea room, media room, discussion and signing areas, a VIP room, a yoga space, changing rooms, and a dining space. The design team relays, "In the private dining area and tearoom, oriental knitting images have been translated into modern symbols. Through details, material considerations, and lighting design, the beauty of this area has been outlined.” Wooden grilles and slats run throughout the functional program, binding each distinct zone into a harmonious whole, adding a silent, gentle rhythm to the backdrop, letting the highlight elements take centre stage and pay heed to the Lingnan region’s rich cultural traditions.

  • Vanke Joy Hill is an elegant fusion of traditional crafts and modern design sensibilities | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    Vanke Joy Hill is an elegant fusion of traditional crafts and modern design sensibilities Image: Boris Shiu@AGENT PAY
  • Floor Plans | Vanke Joy Hill | More Design Office (MDO) | STIRworld
    Floor Plans Image: © MDO

Project Details

Name: Vanke Joy Hill
Location: Dongguan, Guangdong, China
Design Scope: Space, Interior Decor, Lighting
Area: 1100 sqm
Year of Completion: October 2021
Developer: Dongguan Vanke
Design Team: MDO (More Design Office)
Design Directors: Justin Bridgland, Jaycee Chui
Chief Designers: Tang Li, Liu Xiongjie
Space Design: Cao Jiawen, Yu Mengwen, Xia Shengnan
Interior Decor: Tang Yanping, Peng Haiyan, Zheng Yiyi
Installation Partner: Twenty One Florist Studio
Furniture Partner: Zhao Yun's Product Designer Studio

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