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Quarta & Armando reawaken Shanghai’s clubbing scene

In an unlikely happening for early 2021, Quarta & Armando have opened Potent, a Shanghai club hoping to accelerate the city’s post-pandemic rebirth.

Quarta & Armando reawaken Shanghai’s clubbing scene

Underwhelmed by the migration of the club to online spaces during the pandemic, a longing for new and tangible clubbing experiences has been stirred amongst China’s electronic music scene.

Sensing the brewing demand and looking for a more permanent venue, a prolific Chinese festival organiser commissioned Quarta & Amando to step in. Contradicting 2020-2021 expectations, the studio created Potent, a 600 square-metre club in Shanghai, China.

Perforated metal lines the cloakroom which is next to a red corridor leading into the club.

According to Quarta & Armando, “Shanghai is the symbol of rebirth after COVID-19, and designing new techno club Potent offered a chance to restart the city’s nightlife and recharge aspirations and hopes for the future”.

Gianmaria Quarta and Michele Armando founded the Shanghai-based design consulting studio in 2016. The duo believes “music goes hand in hand with design as a creative force” and their understanding of Shanghai’s nightlife scene is evident in the club’s design.

A sculptural bar inside Potent club under blue lights.

Sculptural, yet rejecting excessive embellishment, Potent draws on the “many golden ages” of clubbing, melding them together in a dark, minimal space and entrancing patrons with rippling lighting, varied music and, critically, the opportunity to socialise in a new space.


Designing Potent offered Quarta & Armando a chance to restart Shanghai’s nightlife and recharge the city’s aspirations for the future


The club has two rooms. On entry, the first is the light room which focuses primarily on hip-hop. Retro-futuristic Panton-esque ceiling lights protrude from above the seating areas, a roof of tiny inverted UFOs. While it might sound over-the-top, it’s anything but. One of the club’s main draw cards is its pared back minimalism. In the centre of the circular bar, a dramatic black post extends up to the ceiling where it fans out in black panelling.

Subtle lighting casts a blue glow over Potent nightclub.

Through the next doorway, patrons can move back into the dark room, a smaller, more intimate and enigmatic space that hosts mostly techno, experimental and house. Geometric lasers visually signify the dance floor, while walls of perforated steel and black vinyl couches lace the perimeter.

The club is located in the Huaihai TX mall, a shopping experience aimed at Gen X and Millennials. The mall has been acknowledged as an innovator by contravening a range of traditional shopping centre expectations, including charging shops by percentage of sales, rather than rental revenue, and by curating shops from internet-famous brands. Potent is a cherry on top of the shopping centre’s curious and immersive, data-analysis-driven retail offerings.

Potent is bound to become a hub for Shanghai’s critical subcultures and assist as a well-deserved respite from the pandemic for a city that is gradually reawakening.

Photography by Peter Dixie

Red lasers create a geometric outline of the club's dancefloor.

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