by Pallavi MehraJan 19, 2023
Located in the Shenzhen Art Design Center, the Shenzhen Qizhushe Workshop and Exhibition Space by Beijing-based YI+MU Design nests in a renovated industrial factory of the 1980s. The coexistence of a workspace and display space is an interesting combination. Focused on furniture design, the interior design is conceptualised as a space for creating and making products that will eventually also be used to showcase the same objects. The workshop aims to incite the passion and creativity of designers and craftsmen in Shenzhen, China.
Using the exhibition space as a metaphor for a retreat, the representation of the core idea manifests as a technique. YI+MU Design Office has tried to build a warm and cosy “nest”, within which designers, makers and visitors can explore design. The open floor plan is interrupted by a single column located at the centre of the northern block. The overall interior is developed around this singular free-standing column. Using the column as a starting point, the workshop layout extends into a wooden art installation that forms the heart of the space.
This installation is a physical manifestation of the core visual concept of the nest. An intricately designed lighting system is used in the heart of the Nest, to create a house of light, symbolising the studio's more spiritual concept. Expressing faith through spatial design, and focusing on communicating the soul of a space, are key approaches of YI+MU Design's practice. Co-founded by Yi Chen and Muchen Zhang in 2002, the design practice is known to push for cultural extension and artistic communication while fully respecting the balanced relationship between man and space through spirituality. It is an aspect one sees in the spatial design of this project as well.
The inward-looking space is a lesson in interiority. The periphery of the Qizhushe workshop is lined with a 19-meter-long block of suspended mesh display racks. Running through the entire space like a double-edged sword, the mesh stands in contrast with the Nest. Made from scraps discarded during the production process, the Nest retains the original wooden colour, while the rest of the styling is in dark-grey steel. The natural warmth of wood and the industrial coldness of metal form two layers between which visitors can view the two elements. The studio's idea behind the juxtaposition is to create a complex psychological feeling and emotional effect, that is meant to strengthen the unique sense of belonging within the Nest.
The wooden finish of the Nest and the metallic mesh create a tense spatial order, not only because of their materiality but also their function. The mesh display racks have a programmatic purpose, the Nest on the other hand is purely spatial and conceptual. The Nest also runs the risk of over-powering the design objects displayed in the peripheral racks. The two also possess a contrasting density. Structurally the Nest is made up of chips of wooden meticulously strung together. The display rack is an equidistance grid with a part of it against a blank wall with three levels vertically. Another segment is open on both sides, with no vertical divisions. As structures the contrast is evident, however, once the display rack is occupied by furniture, densities are more aligned to each other.
In the foyer, there is another display wall for legacy furniture production tools along with samples of modern furniture materials. These are specially curated to make the space more engaging in terms of cultural communication. In addition to providing more display space for original furniture, this wall can be customised based on the objects in exhibits. There is inherent flexibility to the space that accommodates and allows the furniture designers to carry out both creative and administrative tasks.
The lighting design of the space is of particular importance. Beyond the traditional lighting of the showroom, light is filtered through the Nest’s structures, to create a slow flicker resembling the breaths of a living body. This feeds into the YI+MU’s spiritual metaphor, the lighting for the surrounding exhibition space has been deliberately lowered, allowing it to diffuse from the central area throughout the entire space. YI+MU's attempt to break the boundary between the tangible and the spiritual through the material and lighting design while intriguing does not result in a new aesthetic arrangement or visual language.