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Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

China Architecture News - May 26, 2023 - 14:54   1998 views

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Shanghai-based architecture firm Wutopia Lab has designed a cafe wrapped by copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai, China.

Named Copper Blockhouse, the arched building comprises a cafe, a stage, with a kitchen and a bathroom, acting like a gleaming stainless-steel space in the fortress, the cabin of the ship.

The office chose the copper metal shell because it believed it was "strong enough to protect our frightened souls."

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Read the full design narrative with the architects' own words. In 2021, I was invited by my friend Qiye, to design a central building in the center of the creative industry park that I renovated for him. However, we are both spaced out those days as our wives are facing a similar dilemma. We are distracted, yet tried to take our minds off anxiety by working, but it was hard to fully concentrate.

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Various possibilities of functions such as clubs and cafés were vetoed, as these ordinary functions cannot convince the two middle-aged men who were in panic. Eventually, we agreed on a multi-functional spiritual fortress as the central building. I said to Qiye that we needed to justify our existence, which was impossible for successful commercial development to achieve. The museum is the church of the modern age, and it might settle our disturbed souls. Therefore, we used the museum as the base of the work.

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Nautical machinery and ships are huge metal objects, therefore, I decided to build the building entirely of metal, and copper was chosen in the end. I am superstitious that metal shell is strong enough to protect our frightened souls.

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

I Want to Build a Copper Blockhouse the Way a Ship is Built

First you have to give up. First you have to know, not fear, know that someday you're gonna die. It's only after we've lost everyting that we're free to do anyting.

The form of the design is the original arched shed on the site. The building is an arch, and that's it. It was the nautical machine factory that inspired me to build this fortress the way a ship is built. 

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Therefore, the construction of the building started with the keel, which was made of welded structural steel from 150mm to 220mm wide, covered by copper plates on both sides to form the internal and external facades. This is the origin of Full Metal Jacket.

There's a gleaming stainless-steel space in the fortress, the cabin of the ship. It funcions a café, as well as a stage, with a kitchen and a bathroom. This is the only decoration of the Copper Blockhouse, symbolizing the sharpness of our souls, and the desires behind.

The grass on the north side of the fortress was designed into a huge black wading pool. The Copper Blockhouse is then presented as a submarine, emerging from water surface like a shimmering whale, quietly, silently, rippling inside.

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Despite Nowhere to go, this Building is Our Salvation

Every evening, I died and every evening, I was born again. Resurrected. The rest of the park was designed by an excellent architect who gave the park a new look. However, I kept the newspaper wall on south side of the shed, the human security, the big tree, and the rockery. I tried to remain some fragments of the memory of the site because I am increasingly reluctant to forget. Each building in the park is abundantly designed, and that's why I preferred to keep the Copper Blockhouse simple. If the whole park is a partita, the Copper Blockhouse is a silent pause.

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

I ambushed a variety of possibilities in this "pause", the fortress - exhibitions, performances, lectures, parties, a museum, even skateboarding activities. The café can be used as a stage if keep the gate towards the pool open. With the water surface drawing down, a glittering catwalk appears. We once imagined here to be a dramatic show, but after the year of 2022, I've changed my mind. I hope there would be glorious fireworks, a choir performance on the water, singing about the pain and the hope. Because "What's past is prologue."

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time.

The name "Copper Blockhouse" is inspired by an air raid shelter reserved on the project site, a solid fortress. 

Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Site plan

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Floor plan

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Section

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Section

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

West elevation

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

North elevation

Wutopia Lab wraps cafe with copper plates to evoke nautical machinery and ships in Shanghai

Drawing

Wutopia Lab completed a cafe by adding emotions, historical details and touches within the space in Shanghai Historical Museum, China. 

The studio also designed a showroom, evoking Chinese red mountains with dazzling orange-color peaks at the roof of the building on Ma'an Island, Zhongshan, Guangdong. 

Project facts

Project name: Copper blockhouse

Design firm: Wutopia Lab

Chief architect: YU Ting

Project manager: MU Zhilin

Design team: MI Kejie, XU Nan, DAI Ruoyu

Construction drawing design firm: Shanghai Southeast United Engineering Design Co., Ltd

Client: Shanghai Jiayun Investment Management Development Co., Ltd

Construction firm: Shanghai Qikufangyun Culture Technology Co., Ltd

Lighting consultant: ZHANG Chenlu

Project location: Pudong, Shanghai, China

Project year: 2021.4-2023.4

Area: 405 sqm

Materials: copper, stainless steel, micro cement, glass

All images © CreatAR Images.

All drawings © Wutopia Lab.

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