Sichuan’s silk and embroidery culture informs Chengdu’s unmanned metro line

J&A and Sepanta Design ‘provoke emotion’ in the 13 stations of Chengdu's Metro Line phase 1, reflecting the city's creativity and progressiveness in its futuristic interior design.

by STIRworld Published on : Feb 18, 2021

Chengdu’s new metro line is a revolutionary step in the transportation sector as it’s the city's first fully automatic, unmanned line. Here, 5G mobile network replaces drivers to communicate with each other.

Designed by Shenzhen-based Jiang & Associates Design (J&A) and Sepanta Design from London, the interiors contribute to the exciting, dynamic and historic culture of Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province in China.

The metro stations bear a futuristic look | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
The metro stations bear a futuristic look Image: Courtesy of CHAPA

The 22-kilometre-long Chengdu Metro Line 9 Phase I, with 13 underground stations, spans from southeast to northwest of the city. Under construction since 2016, the line opened to the public in December 2020.

The designers have incorporated elements of Sichuan silk and embroidery in their design | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
The designers have incorporated elements of Sichuan silk and embroidery in their design Image: Courtesy of CHAPA

On the route called Line 9, the high-capacity Type 8A trains pass through the hometown of Sichuan silk and embroidery culture, and several urban ecological parks as well. With intention to reflect Chengdu city’s rich, progressive and creative culture, the designers also used the elements of Sichuan silk and embroidery in their design.

All four ‘Feature Stations’ are unique in the design| Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
All four ‘Feature Stations’ are unique in the design Image: Courtesy of CHAPA

The metro line has been designed with an aim to entirely change people’s expectations of what metro stations can offer. “Our main aim in the design of Chengdu metro stations was to ‘provoke emotions’. There are some metro stations around the world that do that, but not many. Chengdu metro stations are not going to be merely points of transit. They are going to be memorable spaces that offer their passengers an artistic and futuristic expression of their own culture,” mentions Reza Esmaeeli, founder of Sepanta Design and also the Design Director at Chetwoods Architects.

  • The design for Feature Stations varies according to their locations | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    The design for Feature Stations varies according to their locations Image: Courtesy of CHAPA
  • All Standard Artistic Stations have a uniform design in contrast to Feature Stations | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    All Standard Artistic Stations have a uniform design in contrast to Feature Stations Image: Courtesy of CHAPA

In the first phase of the line, the 13 underground stations have been categorised into two – Feature Stations and Standard Artistic Stations. The four Feature Stations are unique in their design as they have their own sub-themes based on their location, and are defined by varying colour palettes, featured zones, tasteful furniture and complementing materials. On the other hand, the Standard Artistic Stations follow a uniform design pattern, based on an abstract interpretation of embroidery techniques. However, the designers have given a touch of some local elements to each of these nine stations to differentiate them from one another. Lighting also plays an important role in creating the “desired feeling” in all the stations.

  • The Jincheng Avenue Station has columns reminiscent of lotus flowers in Chengdu | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    The Jincheng Avenue Station has columns reminiscent of lotus flowers in Chengdu Image: Courtesy of CHAPA
  • The designers have embedded inspirations in the design from flora and fauna found in the city | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    The designers have embedded inspirations in the design from flora and fauna found in the city Image: Courtesy of CHAPA
  • Jincheng Avenue Station sporting lilac-coloured columns | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    Jincheng Avenue Station sporting lilac-coloured columns Image: Courtesy of CHAPA

The designers went through the rich culture of embroidery and silk weaving in Chengdu to create a formal language for all the stations, which translates into continuous interweaving of lines, creation of nodes, forms and texture in the space. Further, the J&A and Sepanta have also incorporated elements of flora and fauna native to Chengdu. This is clearly visible at Jincheng Avenue Station, where the ticket hall is illuminated by curved, lilac-coloured columns reminiscent of lotus flowers in a nearby lake. Similarly, lights that resemble silkworm cocoons are installed across walkway ceilings at Cuqiao Station.

  • The lights installed at Cuqiao Station resemble silkworm cocoons | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    The lights installed at Cuqiao Station resemble silkworm cocoons Image: Courtesy of CHAPA
  • Cuqiao Station is a Feature Station with its own unique design | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    Cuqiao Station is a Feature Station with its own unique design Image: Courtesy of CHAPA
  • Lighting is one of the striking features at Cuqiao Station | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    Lighting is one of the striking features at Cuqiao Station Image: Courtesy of CHAPA

“We are happy to have had this opportunity to contribute to the exciting, dynamic and historic culture of Chengdu. J&A’s unparalleled experience in design of metro stations and SOHOVita’s (global design and management platform) support in creating the desired communication line among different parties were all crucial elements of the successful delivery of this project,” says Yevgeniya Pozigun of Sepanta Design. 

Silkworm cocoons are the key inspiration in the design of the Cuqiao Station| Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
Silkworm cocoons are the key inspiration in the design of the Cuqiao Station Image: Courtesy of CHAPA

In 2018, J&A joined hands with Sepanta Design for the concept design of the stations. Later, J&A won the bid to design interiors for all the stations in the first phase, and the work began in 2019.

Frank Jiang, J&A chairman / state department special allowance specialist, also said that they “really enjoyed designing together with our partner Sepanta Design from London on Chengdu line 9 and look forward to the next collaborations”.

J&A has been honored as “the most influential design team in China” for 10 successive years. The firm’s key specialism has been in rail transport spaces. Sepanta Design, an architectural and interior design studio, focuses on the realisation of spaces that are functional, conceptual and contextual.

  • Plan for Chengdu Metro Line 9 | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    Plan for Chengdu Metro Line 9 Image: Courtesy of CHAPA
  • Ceiling plan for Chengdu Metro Line 9 | Chengdu Metro Line 9 designed by J&A and Sepanta | STIRworld
    Ceiling plan for Chengdu Metro Line 9 Image: Courtesy of CHAPA

Project Details

Name: Chengdu Rail Transit Line 9 Phase I
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Client: Chengdu Metro & China Railway City Development and Investment Group
Project Completion: December 2020
Interior Design: Sepanta Design, J&A Design + SOHOVita
Lighting Design: BPS Electrical and Mechanical Consultant  
Interior Design Period: 2018-2019

(Text by Sharmin Oanali, intern at STIRworld.com)

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