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Lane 189 by UNStudio: Ahead of the Curve

Known as an innovator in developing the relationship between digital technology and architecture, UNStudio explores the formal complexity and a deep integration of facade and interior space in a Shanghai shopping mall Lane 189. Neo Disheng writes for Cubes 87.

Lane 189 by UNStudio: Ahead of the Curve

The design incorporates elements of ‘old Shanghai’ through geometry, pattern and materialisation, and combines these with a contemporary urban experience


August 30th, 2017

When Lane 189, a new shopping mall designed by UNStudio, opened in Shanghai last December, its visitors were welcomed by an unique acoustically enhanced shopping experience where 3D sound systems create a surreal aural environment. The event exemplified the challenge shopping malls face in this era of digital upheaval: innovate or succumb to the onslaught of online retail.

UNStudio would know about this; they have done research on the issue in collaboration with several Dutch universities. Their study looked at how to transform shopping spaces into social places to prevent them from dying out.

In fact, Van Berkel does not see Lane 189 as a place to merely buy things. Rather, the building was designed as a vertical public square. “The idea of a vertical square where people meet is perhaps the first idea I think of when we design these malls. I am often inspired by art, and in this case, artists like Rauschenberg and Warhol, who were fascinated with the culture of shopping and the things one finds along the way,” says Van Berkel.

The social spaces at Lane 189 manifest in various forms and are dispersed throughout the building. These, along with the other programmes in the building, are encapsulated within a complex-looking three-dimensional skin. Besides creating an attractive public destination in the city of Shanghai, the facade gives Lane 189 its urban character through a calculated play on visual porosity.

While the spatial layout of Lane 189’s design was inspired by art, its aesthetic can be traced to Van Berkel’s interest in science. This can be seen in the beautiful glass patterns that form the skylight above the central void. “It plays with this idea of patterns you don’t recognise immediately but that are influenced by images of science… It could easily be seen as a pattern coming out of nature. Like in the facade, it is a beautifully controlled chaos,” he explains.

He continues, “The pattern-making on the facade can also be found in the internal balconies and the void space, and because they have the visual refinement common to patterns, the building appears to be woven into one holistic visual effect.”

Lane 189 is yet another demonstration of architecture’s mastery at delivering ‘hardware’ – architectural interventions. However, Van Berkel is of the view that architecture is still quite behind in providing the ‘software’ solutions increasingly needed in this age.

Big data, automation, artificial intelligence, virtual reality – there are endless challenges that the profession (which Van Berkel jokingly critiques as the Walkman in an iPhone world) must contend with today.

Read the complete article in Cubes 87! On shelves now!

Photography © Hufton+Crow (courtesy of UNStudio), unless otherwise stated


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