By turning the British-built 1910’s Police Headquarters, the local architecture studio managed to restore its charm and granted it a new life—Design Republic Design Commune.
Located in Jing’an street, Design Republic Design Commune envisions itself as a design hub, a gathering space for designers and design patrons alike to admire, ponder, exchange, learn and consume. It houses the new flagship store for Design Republic, a modern furniture retailer, alongside a mixture of design-focused retail concepts, including books, fashion, lighting, accessories and flowers.
You may wonder, what a historic colonial building with severe red brick facades would be like with the integration of modernism?
Thanks to Neri&Hu, whose motto is “Imprint of Heritage, modern reinterpretation”, the space uses its very architecture as an impetus for this discourse and effectively answers the slew of questions that accompanies renovation.
The carefully reinventing surgery takes like this: First, gently removing the decaying wood and plaster, then carefully restoring the still vibrant red brick work, while grafting on skin, joints, and organs onto parts that needed reconstruction. And finally with the attachment of a brand new appendage which, like a prosthetic, enables the existing building to perform new functions, the nearly abandoned building begins its life again.
Replacing the rather dilapidated row-shops on the street front, Neri&Hu introduced a modern glassy insertion onto the brick façade. To accentuate the historic nature of the main building, the street level periphery is enveloped by transparent glazing to reveal the existing brick work and rough concrete structures. Breathing new life into a traditional colonial building plan, Neri&Hu strategically removed certain floor plates, walls, as well as ceiling panels, to allow a renewed experience of the existing building, one that is fitting for the new functions to which the building now needs to respond.
Various small and precise incisions have been made in the interior architecture to reveal the building’s history and integrity while creating experiential intersections for a coherent experience when moving through the building. Contrasting with the exterior which has mostly been left intact due to historic preservation guidelines, the interior has been completely transformed. The starkly modern white rooms are juxtaposed with untouched remnants of brick walls, and in some cases, exposed wood laths underneath crumbling plaster walls. The clear intentionality behind the detailing of connections between the old and the new creates a visually and spatially tectonic balance in relation to the building as a whole.
Whilst reserving the “old” atmosphere, a sum of well-placed objects, signs, along with the selected materials, also play their roles in presenting modernism. “On this stage the furniture, accessories, books, fashion pieces, lights and flowers are the actors, conveying the sense of the discovery of differences, experimentation, care for spaces based on materials, details, aromas and readings.” Neri&Hu once explained, and the goal, “is to demonstrate what the world of design can offer to China, to inform and educate local designers and consumers, helping them see things from a different perspective, beyond the clichés of the market. And also, one day, we hope this place can display what China can offer to the world.”