“In 2008, I was on a study trip to Germany and encountered Anish Kapoor’s artwork – Memory, which was then being exhibited. And in subsequent press interviews, I frequently recounted the impact it had on me. The artwork sparked a feeling that then ignited an inner urge in me that inadvertently shaped my initial ambition for design values.

Project name: Shenzhen Zhongshuge
Location: Shenzhen, China
Project area: 1300㎡
Completion time: 2021. 11
Design Company: X+LIVING
Creative Designer: LI XIANG
Project Director: Ren Lijiao, Wu Feng
Participating Designers: Luo Ziyan, Jiang Xueping, Wang Yifan, Li Baojun, Zhao Yuwen
Photographer: SFAP

Shenzhen Zhongshuge by X+Living - Sheet1

This hazy inspiration has often guided me in my designs to create a sense of atmosphere and spirituality, first as spirit and certain emotions, and then as form and symbolism, with function being properly integrated.

When I received the design assignment for Zhongshuge in Shenzhen last year, I had led the designs for several completed Zhongshuge across China. In the process of researching the cultural background of this city, I realized that I could design a space which could become a symbol of Shenzhen itself as an inclusive and vibrant city of migrants, paying tribute to all those who have struggled to make history in this city.

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Thus, this retail space, which seems to have grown out of a giant art installation, was born. Straddling the earth and sky, it is examined as an otherworldly presence that creates a subtle experience of unease mixed with familiarity, making the space a proposition posing silent questions to the viewers.”

By Li Xiang

Although the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone is only 40 years old, a tiny period of time in terms of macroscopic scale, it has made great achievements that have attracted worldwide attention. These achievements and history are the result of the sweat and hard work of countless pioneers. The city has been forged by countless dreamers. Shenzhen Zhongshuge was born under such a circumstance to pay tribute to the creators of history on this land.

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Located in Qianhai OCT, Shenzhen, this project is functionally divided into a concept area, a forum area, a children’s reading area and a conference area.

The concept area is located at the corner of the building, with a large glass façade that breaks the spatial barrier between the interior and exterior, dissolving the boundary between the interior and exterior views and enhancing the expansiveness of the space, allowing consumers to appreciate the retail space from outside, which is almost occupied with a huge art installation. It frames the scene to portray an inclusive and open storytelling magnetism and urban temperament. In this artistic space, time seems to become tangible. A massive spiral staircase which is actually a bookshelf lying on its side on the ground, running in a curved trajectory through the entire concept area and connecting the entrance and exit.

When customers gaze at the spiral staircase from the front, they can observe a cut-out in the shape of a clock dial. The handrails in the form of clock hand allude to the fact that this is a ladder of history that has been built up over countless hours, conveying the sense that history is being pushed through time at a rapid pace. The space is also appropriately divided to create a more exclusive spatial pattern, providing the reader with an intimate reading experience. The spiral staircase serves as a functional bookshelf and also a huge artistic installation, neutralizing a strong commercial connotation and enhancing the charm of the place, like a huge fable waiting to be explored. “Time, unfortunately, is like water that passes away.” The continuous flowing contours of the display table are like water, connoting the passage of time, outlining the curving lines of the interior traffic flow, allowing the readers to appreciate the flow of time, and achieve inner peace, gaining a sense of silent healing.

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Gorky once said, “Books are the ladder of human progress.” Raphael’s famous painting “The Academy of Athens” also shows cultural figures representing different disciplines such as philosophy, mathematics, music and astronomy gathering in front of the ladder to research on  knowledge and truth. The designers have taken the symbolism of the ladder of wisdom and integrated the elegant and dignified bookshelves in the forum area into a towering ladder, creating a sacred temple of knowledge. The superimposed doorways and layered floor lines imply the richness and breadth of the Hall of Knowledge’s spiritual core. The simple light fixtures emit a soft light to create a warm atmosphere throughout. The levitating tables enrich the surreal atmosphere, bringing the reader some fantastical imagery and feelings.

The children’s area carries colorful and joyful memories. The designers have used simple lines and graphics to draw the spinning Ferris wheel and the dreamy little castle with childlike brushstrokes. The popular amusement park carousel is also designed as a table, inviting children to make friends with books and spend a candy-like sweet time together. The warm and bright orange and the hazy and elegant blue and purple collide and harmonize, filling the space with dreamy and happy colors.

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The development of history is spiraling and twisting, and the historical trajectory to advance society by those pioneers is condensed into a hieroglyphic spiral ladder, repeating the flat life under which they have the perseverance of dripping water through stone. The large window design allows for an unobstructed view of the exquisite interior, bringing a feast for the senses and mapping out a deep impression of the brand in the minds of consumers. The designer’s unconventional approach to fusing commerce and art breaks the shackles of the monotonous attributes of a space bound to function, conveys the brand’s values, brings a new and novel place gene to consumers’ shopping experience. It is a pioneering attempt to evolve the shape of future commercial space. Shenzhen Zhongshuge is not only a place of tribute to the city’s pioneers, but also a place of healing for learning knowledge and seeking wisdom. It is one of the countless tiny microcosms of Shenzhen, housing unease and immensity.


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