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780 Tianshan Road

A 40-year-old office building in Shanghai is given a stylish makeover by Hong Kong-based architectural firm Design Systems Limited. Christie Lee has the story.

780 Tianshan Road

An underground utility management and detection company has chosen to do things a bit differently for their office in Shanghai.

780 Tianshan Road

Located on 780 Tianshan Road, the five-storey office building is spread over 1,000 metres square and accommodates up to 125 working stations. The company’s motto is “seeing what you cannot see”. Taking inspiration from this, Design Systems has conceived a design that is minimalist and elegant yet functional.


Employees enter the building by way of a long driveway, which is flanked on both sides by lush greenery. Located in a typical residential area, the building had its beginnings as a cattle farm before becoming a national agricultural supplier’s office building. The edifice goes back four decades, when load-bearing walls, assembled from precast concrete slabs on-site, were all the rage. While they make for strong foundations, they also limit the way by which spaces can be partitioned and allocated.

780 Tianshan Road

To begin, Design Systems knocked down some of the walls on the top floor, replacing it with steel frames to support the roof.



The double-loaded corridor layout is retained on all floors, with a pristine white corridor leading to individual offices. Doors are neatly concealed to give the illusion of additional space. Meanwhile, ceilings are outfitted with custom-designed aluminium profiles to absorb noise, as an unobtrusive way to combat potential acoustic issues related to low ceilings and small spaces.


Particular attention was paid to the materials. Brass is used in all the doorframes and signage, while dark wood and cement imbue the space with an understated charm. The result is a design that blends in harmony with the surroundings.



Besides private offices, there are communal spaces for office workers to relax and mingle. Abstract art is exhibited amid a range of hotly-hued chairs and sofas, providing a sophisticated backdrop. A stately marbled tea table, located in the Executive Room, adds to the refined aesthetics. Elsewhere, a peony-shaped carpet and brass hanging decoration symbolise prosperity and balance respectively.


Design Systems Limited

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