Wutopia Lab summons landscapes from fairytales for a bookstore in China
by Jerry ElengicalNov 11, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Nov 09, 2022
Commercial recreational spaces today represent an escape from the monotony of everyday life, a break from standardised office designs, the packed and frenzied enclosures of public transport, and the blend of stress and ennui that pervades the minds of most urbanites. Designers today, often seek to elicit strong emotions when developing such spaces— either by providing an environment that is a drastic departure from what users have come to expect, by immersively soothing the senses through carefully curated materials and tones, or finally, by channelling an aesthetic slant in a manner that transports users to a specific genre or milieu. In an age where the split between physical and digital interaction is increasingly leaning towards the latter, this form of escapism takes on new dimensions, where there is also a need for a respite from an endless array of screens and constant online activity. X+ Living, led by Chinese architect Li Xiang has developed their take on this in the form of a multifaceted commercial recreational venue in the city of Changsha, the capital of China's Hunan Province.
Situated in the prominent commercial hub of Changsha BBG Star World in the city’s Red Star Business District, Changsha Fundolandπ has been conceived as an "offline social entertainment metaverse born out of the big bang of design inspiration.” As one of the premier entertainment franchises under Chinese amusement operator LEDI Culture, Fundolandπ’s new outlet within this setting has been articulated as a cyberpunk-themed escapist fantasy that aims to attract users from a variety of target demographics.
Light years away from any notion of minimalism or restraint, the Chinese design firm’s scheme embraces a style that overwhelms the senses — through colour, texture, reference, and lighting design. Retrofuturistic sensibilities add to the science fiction-tinged themes that run through the design of the 4,500 sqm space. Inside this compound, the designers have combined over 10 distinct entertainment zones offering specific immersive experiences that vary from an escape room, bowling alley, a murder mystery game, retail spaces, restaurants, pubs, a livehouse, arcade, and private karaoke rooms. As per the team at X+ Living, this ensemble of spaces was conceptualised with the intent of "creating a trendsetter for scenes pertaining to offline consumption in this era of culture and entertainment, building a secret urban stronghold to fulfil these functions.”
From the start itself, the constraints of the space posed a problem wherein the non-uniform enclosure and intrusion of structural columns at critical points initially hindered the organisation of program areas. In the end, the designers rectified this issue by introducing a 60-metre long tunnel-like hallway that conforms to the prevalent site conditions. This stretch doubles as both the restaurant and pub within the complex as well as the main artery that connects other adjacent entertainment venues. Elaborately detailed with an assortment of vibrant light fixtures and ornamentation that resemble mechanical equipment — a common focus element in cyberpunk fiction — this zone manifests the image of a high-speed corridor for travel, filled with models of trains, adding elements of steampunk and dieselpunk to the fold.
At the entrance, a black mirrored wall serves as the backdrop for the arched entryway, riddled with light fixtures, essentially acting as the façade design. Viewed from outside, the scene resembles a portal to another world, where the space beyond the archway is not subject to the laws of reality, appearing almost like a work of animation. A merchandise display takes up space along the four walls surrounding the entrance, with a retail and gift area nearby, enveloping visitors in “a sense of abundance” beneath the mirrored ceiling. The use of reflective planes is a common trend in X+ Living’s design vocabulary, as a device used to visually expand space, evident in projects such as the Dujiangyan Zhongshuge bookstore in Chengdu, Taiyuan FAB Cinema in Xi’an, or Shenzhen Zhongshuge in Shenzhen. Low saturated orange lights are complemented by cool blue screens — another common motif throughout Changsha Fundolandπ.
Past the compartments of vehicles that the firm has dubbed “dream trains", the corridor provokes a sense of detachment from the world outside, with the sight of incoming trains. Functional areas have been arranged on either side of this route, inviting users to explore this pathway, filled with new experiences at every turn. Metallic inserts along the vaulted ceiling enhance the scene through geometric motifs, making full use of all the free surfaces within the space. They also serve a functional purpose in supporting signage and wayfinding implements as well lighting fixtures. The livehouse and gaming station have been placed opposite one another, on either side of the main corridor, with the pub area between them.
Within the gaming station, one encounters a decidedly retro atmosphere, resembling a vintage arcade that has been updated for the contemporary era. Inspired by the concept of a “retro-neon subway,” bright pink and violet tones define the palette here, with finishes that are reminiscent of subway tiles decorating the walls, floors, and ceilings. Other elements such as handrails, subway seats, ground warning lines, wall graffiti, have been incorporated into the design to reinforce the underground arcade concept, accented by rosy pink ambient lighting from the gaming equipment, creating a mood described by the Chinese designers as “techno-psychedelia.” Again, the intent here is to offer an abundance of sensory stimuli — from the signage along the space’s upper plane or through the abundance of arcade-style machines that line walls here.
On the other hand, the bar area follows a theme that blends warm and cold hues with geometric design motifs under a reflective ceiling. This is a callback to the merchandise display and retail area, although the resulting design exerts a much louder presence within its enclosure. Dining areas inside the carriages and between them, have been configured in a manner that allows for flexible seating arrangements that can be altered to meet the need of the hour. In one section of the main artery through the entertainment district, the space morphs into a stark red environment that possesses a strong sense of linear perspective, bearing similarities to the airlock from the Discovery One in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The end of the dream train’s carriages signifies the commencement of new functional zones, each described as a “station” along the course of the tunnel-like hallway. Metal pipes, a recurring element along the ceiling plane of the main concourse, guide visitors towards specialised program areas. For instance, the bowling alley has been incorporated as a huge central station along the main corridor, with a stylised model of a locomotive at the centre of the hall. The floors of the lanes themselves have been decorated with lines that evoke train tracks, accentuating the railway theme, with vaulted ceilings that channel the spatiality of platforms, bringing an old-world style to the futuristic image. Purple lighting defines the ambience here, continuing the structure of each space having its own distinct colour scheme.
In the livehouse, ethereal blue tones characterise the underlying theme, with a metal wall grille ornamenting wall spaces with geometric patterns that reference industrial equipment, gothic vaults, and mechanical systems. Lighting, gold accents, and ducting invoke a fusion of cyberised steampunk, with seating arranged on either side of the stage, in the form of red sofas, which are mirrored along reflective elements that accent parts of the ceiling.
Cavernous in its spatial extent, like a gothic cathedral, the KTV area comes in at the end of the pub dining area, as a double-height foyer that takes the immersive experience to a whole new level. By sacrificing floor area on the upper level, the Chinese architecture firm was able to introduce a pair of crossing staircase designs, which are the focal point of the space. Archways, framing entrances to the private karaoke rooms, along with red accent lighting, and a gradual transition from a cool blue theme at the bottom to more visceral red one, outline the aesthetic here, leaning heavily towards a more explicit cyberpunk feel.
Merging abstraction, escapism, and futuristic motifs, Changsha Fundolandπ delineates a transition from reality to fantasy, where consumption becomes a sensorial experience driven by a thematic narrative. Through art, design, and spatial transformations, visitors will be able to flit between the boundaries of the virtual and physical, and find the escape they all crave.
Name: Changsha Fundolandπ
Location: L3 BBG Star World, No.398 Xiangfu East Road, Yuhua District, Changsha, Hunan Province, China
Year of Completion: 2022
Client: LEDI Culture Pty., Ltd.
Design Company: X+Living
Chief Designer: Li Xiang
Technical Director: Fan Chen, Wu Feng
Project Director: Yang Qiong, Ren Yujin
Design Team: Chen Jiaxin, Zheng Shuwen, Zhuang Yinchuan, Huang Zhenwei, Guo Ruikun, Huang Ruxue, Huang Haifeng
Furniture Design: X+Living
Production Director: Zheng Minping
Coordination Team: Lu Qi, Wu Mengxi
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