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Brief Published: 14 Dec 2012

Nature-Inspired Retail/Leisure Centre, Shanghai


Chinese architects practice HRC Design Works has renovated an old warehouse adjacent to the South Bund district of Shanghai, China into a public space that offers shops, wine bars, cafes and a cigar lounge.

Two of its most noteworthy spaces are a cavernous shoe store and a plant-covered café. Known as Sotto Sotto, the centre has been created as something of an all-round retail-cum-leisure destination to entice new visitors to the rejuvenated area.

The design has been specifically orchestrated to not only respect but also make a virtue of the original building’s heritage. Echoing the industrial space, raw materials such as copper, stone and wood have been used throughout, while the interior walls of the café have been lavished with vertical gardens and smatterings of plant life.

The unusual shoe store has been given a minimal style with stone cladding covering the cave-like walls. Products are displayed on a staggered arrangement of stone slabs. 

For more examples of how a desire to reconnect with nature is infiltrating the architecture and interior design psyche, see Return to Nature. For more information on design concepts that play on the idea of the primal notion of refuge, see our report Primal Design. For inspirational examples of contemporary restoration, see Future-Classic: Contemporary Restoration.