Wutopia Lab and The Shrine of Everyman

Wutopia Lab,

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Landscaping, Refurbishment,

The Chinese Wutopia Lab architectural firm has transformed an abandoned rural building into an attraction, in other words a rest stop for visitors to the Qian Shao Farm. A project inspired by an idea deeply rooted in Chinese culture, that of the sacredness of everyday life.

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Wutopia Lab and The Shrine of Everyman
We see many interventions on pre-existing buildings, even in the countryside, where the structural change makes it possible to recover old buildings and give them new and practical uses. In China, in recent years, many such projects have been completed, where the link with the territory and with the rich Chinese culture have led to truly excellent results.
Among these, we can include the latest work by the Chinese Wutopia Lab studio, The Shrine of Everyman. Behind this name hides the conversion of a water pumping building inside the Qian Shao Farm in Dongtanyuan, near Shanghai. The agricultural complex now belongs to the Bright Food multinational, a manufacturer of drinks and snacks whose needs have allowed the transformation of this small industrial volume into a pavilion. Here, visitors can stop and enjoy a moment of tranquility with an exceptional view, thanks to the panoramic position of the old structure.
Wutopia Lab does not fall into the trap of re-proposing architectural forms or vernacular construction materials but, instead, looks at the more abstract substance of traditional Chinese culture, namely the concept that everyday places can be elevated into sacred spaces through the construction of shared memories.
This is where the design idea, consisting in the allusion to milk chocolate comes into play, in reference to the Shanghai food industry and therefore to the customer, the Bright Food group. During the time of material scarcity, in fact, Shanghai milk chocolate had a particular value, so much so that it became an integral part of Shanghai’s culinary memory. As Yu Ting, architect and founder of the studio explains: “I decided to use milk chocolate as the theme of the pump room to awaken the memories of ordinary people who were temporarily forgotten because of the great material abundance, while still enjoying life, thus turning an abandoned facility into a sacred space for ordinary people - Shrine of Everyman.”
Wutopia Lab architects, along with structural engineers, used the base of the pumping station to create a cantilevered platform. This solution allows the structure to stand out in the surrounding landscape achieving a floating effect, both from the perspective of the road and from the water surface, a brown pool that symbolises chocolate. The old pump house, on the other hand, was replaced with a new steel structure, clad with 13 layers of translucent polycarbonate panels as a direct reference to milk. The layers of polycarbonate panels form jagged doorways and overlapping silhouettes reminiscent of the layering of clouds. All carefully thought-out design choices that help establish the sacredness of the place.
Stepping inside the small pavilion, in its formal simplicity, allows you to immerse yourself in the shared memories of ordinary people – of “everyman&dquo; as the name suggests – and to connect with the past through an architecture which, despite its great visual impact on the landscape, does not claim a leading role for itself. Like in a sanctuary, the path towards the small pavilion favours the visitor’s introspection and therefore allows users to indulge in a pause for reflection, a few steps from the hectic daily life of Shanghai.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Wutopia Lab
Location: Dongtanyuan, Shanghai, China
Year: 2021
Images: CreatAR Images