Project Brief

As one navigates along the streets of the Putuo district, Lane 189 swells out at the intersection of Xikang and Changshou Road in the Shanghai city centre.The building speaks for its futuristic presence in an array of modernist and period buildings with its geometric tessellating façade. This tessellation on the façade resembles an Op Art painting of a hexagonal grid or flattened 3d cubes. It stands 7 storeys tall above the ground with 4 storeys underground. This aluminium-clad building was constructed in the year 2016 with an area of 38,800 sqm.

Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet1
Street View of Lane 189 _©Inhabit Consultancy

Lane 189, a creation of the UN Studio, promises a new lifestyle experience for the young professionals of Shanghai. The structure aims to vertically combine the experiences of retail, restaurants and office spaces. This creates a unique environment with a combination of formal, semi-formal and informal spaces under one roof. The architect, Ben Van Berkel describes the structure as – “ Lane 189 responds to a changing retail industry that is moving towards online shopping. It includes a lot more tenants who make food and drink, provide shared office spaces, teach languages, cut hair, get you exercising or even hold onto your kids while you pop into a beauty salon.”

This speaks about how the design studio, UN Studio aimed at creating a combination of experiences for its users where the structure becomes a multi-functional vertical space of congregation enacting the function of a plaza square on the street in olden times.


Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet2
Site Surroundings _©UN Studio

The building sits in a bustling residential and commercial zone, with Changshou Park to its west. The site holds proximity to two metro lines- Metro lines 7 &13 welcoming boundless crowds to the area. The entrance to the building is strategically placed at crossroads allowing maximum visibility. The striking tessellation metal façade raises the building’s identity from its surroundings and attracts eyes. 


Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet3
Entrance Approach _©Hufton + Crow
Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet4
Ground Floor Plan _©UN Studio

The chamfered north-western lower half edge of the structure serves as an entrance for pedestrians. A welcoming entrance plaza takes the consumer through a narrowed entrance to an expansive space. This experience is maximised with the presence of a central void which irregularly cuts through the floor plate. A skylight in the form of hexagonal tessellations shines a bright light upon the visitor as they stand in the centre. This central point of the structure allows its users to circulate vertically through the building.

Design & Concept

The design includes ‘Old Shangai City’ elements which are given a contemporary aesthetic and feel. The floorplates have sharp edges along the exteriors of the building but when the central void cuts through them, they leave behind organic undulating curves. This results in raw organic plateaued balconies which act as pausing points to relax or display art installations. The design of the building is such that it houses social aspects of urban living vertically with boutique retail spaces, restaurant and cocktail areas, café and market plazas along with art and entertainment spaces. This facilitates the visitors to explore the building at every level. Each floor goes beyond the programmatic rules of a conventional shopping mall where customers can eat, shop, drink, work, exercise or even learn a new language. The concept of the building is structured around the idea of urban living.

Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet5
Concept Development Diagram _©UN Studio
Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet6
Inside outside connection_©Conceptual Diagram by UN Studio


The façade of the building is such that it holds many interpretations- it could look like an illusionary Op painting resembling flattened 3d cubes or a hexagonal grid or it could be a building that resembles scattered glass pieces in the air with its diamond tessellations. In every way, the building envelope becomes the key element in raising the building’s identity from its surroundings. The building has two sunken holes in the façade, referred to by the architect as ‘urban eyes’. These double-height windows serve as transitional holes between the inside and outside. They feature balconies for outdoor connection and display kiosks for brands. The architect, Ben calls it – ‘a dual relationship of “see and be seen’.

Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet7
North-west & North-east Elevation Software Renderings _©UN Studio
Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet8
North-west & North-east Elevation Software Renderings _©UN Studio
Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet9
Facade Closeup View _©Hufton + Crow

This gradient hexagonal grid is formed using diamond-shaped panels from alternating arrangements of the materials of glass and aluminium. These panels are that are tied using stainless steel pins forming a tensioned cladding system. The sizes of the diamond tessellation also change along the lower half and the upper half of the building façade. Some of these panels are perforated or solid. These design components also possess a single-layer to a triple-layer variability up to a depth of 400mm. This grid is lit by RGB LEDs that create different visual effects from transparent or opaque, colourful or monochrome, reflective or matt. These lights echo the nightlife spirit of the ever-bustling City of Shanghai.


In contrast to the cold, shiny and geometric metal façade with blue tinted windows on the exterior of the building, the interior of the building is made up of a warm colour palette. The interiors follow a minimalistic aesthetic with the wooden texture and grey and black colours as the prime colours. The tile flooring resembles a cold concrete finish. This is contrasted with wooden grainy textured furniture, handrailing and flooring at intervals. This combination is contrasted with the green leafy texture of the indoor landscape.

Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet10
Undulating floor plate reaching for the skylight _© Hufton + Crow

The most dominating feature of the interiors is the hexagonal grid that forms the skylight. It’s made up of a steel substructure with aluminium reflective units and plexiglass extrusions. This skylight brings in a generous amount of light to the centre of the structure. The light reflected on the interior surfaces often creates a beautiful hexagonal grid. The architect says ‘the building appears to be woven into one holistic visual effect.”

Structural Details

The key elements of the structure are a programmed façade, expansive superstructure and sustainable elements. The hexagonal grid that forms the programmed façade is a combination of hexagons held together by stainless steel pin connector elements.

Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet12
Structural Façade Details and Joinery_© UN Studio
Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet13
Structural Façade Details and Joinery_©UN Studio
Lane 189 by UN Studio - Sheet14
Structural Façade Details and Joinery_© UN Studio

The exterior skeleton of the building is made using steel, stainless steel and steel-reinforced concrete. The envelope which screens the building skeleton is made of PVDF-coated aluminium panels held by stainless steel pins. The glass windows along the façade use low-emissivity coated triple glazing which filters the harmful UV and infrared light coming inside the structure without lowering the amount of light.

The structure is a combination of futuristic geometric design elements and materials tying the sustainability features with technology-driven engineering and construction techniques.

Lane 189 Shining vibrantly in Shanghai _© Leox Design Consultants

Nandini is an architect and loves to illustrate motifs & patterns inspired from her travels. She photographs to keep her memories always alive. One could spot Nandini donning bright Indian textiles and chomping on ramen. She is an avid Sitar player and an Indian classical dancer.