by Jerry ElengicalSep 22, 2022
Xintiandi, an affluent pedestrian-friendly commercial street in the heart of Shanghai, is widely known as a hub for recreation and entertainment within China’s most populous urban area. A place where western and eastern influences meet and thrive - especially in the district’s preserved Shikumen-style architecture - the locale is filled with upscale restaurants, bars, and boutiques frequented by the city’s wealthy residents and tourists looking for a taste of Shanghai’s nightlife. Following their exploits in symbiotic architecture with NEOBIO in Shenzhen, Chinese design studio PIG Design has completed ‘GRNDCNTRL’ - a nightclub in the southern section of Xintiandi’s entertainment district, with an immersive, retro-futuristic environment that places itself as a stage for patrons to indulge in all the theatrical excess associated with a night on the town.
“Distinct from most nightclubs in Shanghai that are dominated by the homogeneous ‘underground’ style, GRNDCNTRL is positioned as a ‘Shanghai nightlife cultural centre,’ says Li Wenqiang - Founder and Director of PIG Design in an official statement. He elaborates, “With a metaphorical ‘theatre’ concept, the design lifts the nightclub to a higher level.” Dark, sophisticated, opulent, and laden with intrigue, the nightclub is intended to serve as a party space, trend-setting socialising destination, and an artistic venue for music. As per the designers, the entire hospitality design project has been conceived around this idea of the space as a ‘theatre’ - one that gives free rein for guests to partake in the performative hedonism of nightlife culture.
From the entrance itself, this concept manifests in the curved lighting design elements along the walls of the preceding passageway, which mimic the lines and rhythms of Shikumen-style buildings that line the deep, long lanes of the commercial areas outside. This sense of enclosure is broken on emerging into the cavernous main hall, with its nine-metre-high ceiling dressed with spotlights meant to cast attention upon guests. Li Wenqiang explains, "The desire of being an actor or actress resides in the subconscious of most people. Hence, every corner of GRNDCNTRL is filled with the chances of seeing or being seen. On such an occasion, people are willing to dress themselves up, instead of dressing in a casual way. Happiness should not be cheap.”
Along this theme, a material palette composed of stainless steel, leather, mirrored finishes, and stone imparts a decidedly lavish and extravagant feel to the space, broken by painted surfaces in various shades of black which mediate the saturation of textures. Wenqiang notes, “Organic curves with simple yet abstract forms break horizontal and vertical compositions, and redefine classic aesthetics. An exquisite cultural performance theatre is turned into a socialising venue available to the masses through artistic design and commercial strategies, without losing the value or the functionality of exhibition and experience.” Smooth curves define most of the furniture designs used for individual booths, including gleaming silver lounges and dark tables that adhere to the monochrome aesthetic of the project. However, lighting design elements embedded into the columns and booth partitions are equipped to infuse colour into the scene, depending on the desired mood.
To one side of the main hall is the DJ-booth - a spot within the space that has panoramic views of all that occurs within its bounds. Adjustable and mobile, the overhead lighting array suspended above it can be configured to a variety of arrangements and heights, altering the spatiality of the hall in order to better fit the mood as necessary. The symmetrical layout separates this central zone from the curved lounge spaces at the other end of the hall by means of an open concourse that can double as a dance floor.
Furthermore, the stone-finished bar design - settled beneath a canopy enveloped by dynamic, stylised lighting strips - has been set back from the centre of activity, lending it an optimum view of the festivities. Galleries on the upper level echo the seating layout of the lower floor, overlooking the centre of the nightclub. Beyond the main functional areas, the restrooms adopt more of a retro theme, exhibiting geometrical design elements inspired by space age aesthetics.
In addition to the main hall, the space also hosts a second, smaller venue devoted primarily to house and techno music. The architects relay that the two halls were designed to cater to the needs and tastes of different user demographics that might frequent the premises. Hypnotic visuals dance across the mirrored surfaces and shifting display screens along the floors and ceilings of the smaller hall, contributing to the cinematic ambience of the space, and its tasteful fusion of design and technology. The layout itself is decorated with more subdued versions of the lounges in the main hall. Combining all of these features has produced a mesmeric space designed to entrance patrons throughout the duration of their sojourn.
Wenqiang concludes, “This nightclub acts as a carrier of culture in the style of ancient theatres, accommodating spirits and emotions that shape people’s character. Based on the background of the times and the city, GRNDCNTRL creates a black-toned, dramatic ‘improvisational scene’ that takes people on an enjoyable, thrilling journey.”
Location: Xintiandi, Shanghai, China
Area: 1700m sqm
Clients: Cody, Victor
Interior Design: PIG DESIGN
Chief Designer: Li Wenqiang
Design Team: Zhu Yiyun, Yan Junjun, Yang Zhiwei, Liu Chao, Qian Mengmeng, Xiong Jun, Gao Ya, He Di, Tan Shijie, Wu Yicheng, Xiao Fei, Shao Xindi, Zhao Lili, Shen Taotao, Fan Kaiqi, Xiao Mengmeng, Cheng Liang
Setting Design: Unreal Production
Lighting Design: Yaank
Furniture Design: PIG DESIGN