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UNStudio’s public installation in Xintiandi, Shanghai, reflects its surroundings in unexpected ways. Martine Beale takes a look.


Constructed with a steel frame, stainless steel mirrored interior and painted aluminium alloy exterior, UNStudio’s recent public installation in Shanghai undulates along the sidewalk outside the Xintiandi Style Retail Mall on Madang Road.


The 30 metre long corridor archway frames the entrance to the mall in a single architectural gesture that twists at its central arc, changing from wall to ceiling, and back to a wall, capturing both urban landscape and pedestrians as distorted reflections along its shiny trajectory.


Created by UNStudio founder Ben van Berkel at the invitation of China Xintiandi, the installation is part of the RIBA Shanghai Windows Project 2014 and conceptually explores the role of display in Shanghai: the cultural reflections that occur between cityscape and its occupants.

“The installation is related to the culture of consuming, not with respect only to shopping, but to consuming images: images of our surroundings, of our city, of the buildings and the people around us and, of course, of ourselves,” says van Berkel.

Large-scale mirrors positioned at each end of the installation serve as focal points that capture the whole lapse of the effect, combining it into one surreal and fascinating moving image.


At night, the installation takes on a different appearance when a series of thin, white strip-lights on the sidewalk beneath it are turned on and reflect back as funky squiggles along its sinuous form.

“We wanted to ‘dress up’ the public space as it were and to capture the public in this environment, almost in a kaleidoscopic catwalk – a place where you can see and be seen, but in surprising ways and within new perspectives of your surroundings,” van Berkel explains.

Photos © Seth Powers


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