Located in Nanshan District, Shenzhen, China and occupying a corner of a building, MORPH is a mixed-use space with a total construction area of 1,000 sqm. With an urban park and Houhai business circle nearby, it's a rare tranquil place amidst the hustle and bustle of the downtown area. "MORPH" means transformation and evolution in Chinese. The client hopes to build a vigorous and brand new social space, to introduce and hold various cultural, artistic and musical events, with a view to bringing new vitality to the city.
The project was approached by Various Associates, a local-based design studio. According to the project designers' understanding, evolution indicates progress and variation. Taking account into the context of Shenzhen — a new city, they wanted to utilize some traditional and local materials to collide with the modern interior structural forms, and fuse gradually-forgotten Chinese old elements with international modern designs and aesthetics in an innovative manner, thereby presenting the "evolution" of design. The designers' idea is to realize collisions within the space through a diversified material palette, contrasting interior scenes as well as division of multiple functional areas.
Walls and ceilings are mainly clad in sand-color natural travertine, which adds a subtle texture to the simple and warm volume as well as presents an visual impression of modernity and eternity in combination with brass connections and holes finished with gold foil, forming striking contrast with surrounding buildings visually. Lightweight yet massive, composed yet prudent, transparent yet closed, the space is awash with contrasting elements.
The color palette is inspired by the Forbidden City, consisting of red, blue, black, yellow and gold, which feature extremely high saturation and are consistent with the colors of Wu Xing (Wu Xing is also named as the Five Elements, which includes metal, wood, water, fire and earth. In traditional Chinese philosophy, Wu Xing is the foundation of everything in the universe and natural phenomena). The five hues with Chinese characteristics are reorganized, interpreted and transformed in a modern approach within the space, which well integrate with the interior structures, together producing visual highlights.
The designers combined diversified modern materials with traditional materials exclusive in China.
The key design intervention of the project is the creation of a mezzanine. Through precise structural calculation, the designers added a mezzanine to the original 7-metre-high space, which is regarded as 2F. A circular and flexible circulation connects all functional areas, and structural languages well match with materials featuring strong hues, hence maintaining balance and unity in an expanded space.
Another bold intervention is to insert a slightly oblique and curved double-height structure into the geometric space, which can not only link, partition and define the space, but also highlight spatial identity and increase brightness. The structure is set between the lounge and the activity area with black walls in a unique manner, perfectly presenting a geometric aesthetic via the collision between materials and structures. Looking up from 1F, it enhances spatial transparency, establishes a visual connection between two floors, and breaks the limitation of 1F's storey height as well as eliminates its oppressive feeling.
MORPH is a bar, an event venue and a transformable space, available for facilitating “interaction between human and city” in cultural context. Functional areas are set around a 7-meter-high activity space at the center. With capacity for 100 people, theatre acoustics, and spatial installations which can be replaced irregularly, it's adaptive to various types of activities and provides local people with a fantastic place to socialize.
Through this project, Various Associates explored and worked out a solution to tackle with the oblivion and disappearing of traditional Chinese materials: on the one hand, adopting unique design approaches to innovate the way of using traditional materials and redefine them in modern designs; on the other hand, integrating China-specific materials with modern technologies, materials and designs, so as to break through the limits of traditional materials utilization and realize “re-design with old material”.
Amidst the prosperous and charming urban night view, MORPH shows its expectation and hope for the city with a unique posture. Just as its name indicates, it keeps evolving and transforming to face different challenges and bring infinite possibilities.