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Monoarchi office renovation, Shanghai, China


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Too often, we see office, residential, hospitality and retail design where the designer seems to have been unable to stop.

Perhaps it is our minimalist sensibilities, but much of the time, we get the feeling that half of what’s there is superfluous, not necessary, not adding anything. And all that excess takes attention away from whatever good features there are. It’s just visual noise, distraction upon distraction.

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So, whenever we see a clear idea executed boldly, we pay attention. Such is the case with Monoarchi’s Shanghai office.

Monoarchi is an architecture firm based in Shanghai and Rotterdam.

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The three founders, Xiaochao Song, Keming Wang and Nan Zhou, each have multiple degrees from European, Canadian and Chinese universities, and varied interests in architecture, urban planning, cultural history, revitalization and preservation.

It is no wonder, then, that their own new office in Shanghai is an example of careful and considered restoration.

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The 100 square-metre (1,076 sq.ft) office is located on the ground floor of a building with real history – a 1940s villa in the French Concession.

For nearly 100 years, this residential area was under French control that ended with World War II.

Monoarchi took its cues from the arches prevalent in the area and then had the courage to not over-design.

We love the graphic emphasis of the arched form achieved by black steel bars. Contrasting these black lines against the solid grey concrete of the vaulted doorways, walls and floors creates a crisp structure.

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The small space looks larger than it is because of this pared-down inventory of ideas, and seems to accommodate everything easily.

They needed working space for eight staff and display areas for work in progress and prototypes. By leaving much of the space undesignated to any one particular function, they have achieved flexibility while avoiding the dreaded look of an open-plan office. Tuija Seipell.

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