archunits softens renovated shanghai office building by adding a sculptural staircase

shanghai-based young architectural office archunits has recently completed the exterior and interior renovation of an office building near shanghai’s jing’an temple. the original building, built in the 1990 and packed with small, crowded office rooms, has been transformed into a new type of office community of openness, communication and sharing – more huashan.


all images © shengliang su



the architects strategically kept the main structure and original height of the building untouched due to strict renovation restrictions in the historical area. the building is located in the former concession area of shanghai and although it is not a historical building itself, it is surrounded by a wild profusion of camphor trees and traditional lane houses. a large tall concrete wall facing huashan road is the highest point of the original building, and was regarded as the symbol of this building. the tall wall is retained, and it becomes the starting point of the design.




starting from the tall wall, archunits has reshaped the morphological relationship of the facade with some curved surface in key locations, so as to mitigate the original rigid building boundary, and soften the visual perception of the whole building. this makes the building have a softer presence in the surrounding historical district.




the facade features a complete solid wall, which the architects kept untouched. they inserted vertical lamella on the sides, which act as west sunshades to provide a more even light environment for the office area. a curved transparent gap is created between the wall and the lamella, corresponding to the interior atrium, which brings the sunlight and tree shadows indoors. the permeability of the facade makes the building less volumetric, in line with the surrounding lane houses.



for the interior renovation, the architects mainly removed existing and unnecessary elements. they limited their use of materials accentuated the spatial quality of the four-story atrium. the atrium space is also a reflection of the external facade, creating an intimate internal and external correlation. it is the small but veritable centre of the space, where people, sunlight, air, and communication closely interact with each other. as the building’s central feature, the atrium hosts a staircase that acts as a spatial installation in the middle of the area. the new dancing staircase hovers from floor to floor, creating an exclusive atrium image, attracting more people to use the atrium, and encouraging circulation and communication through the spaces.

before renovation



project info:


client: hao capital

architect: archunits

design team: shuojiong zhang, chenhao ni, lin liu, siyu zheng

structure&mep: shanghai aj architect & engineer ltd.

lighting: chenlu zhang

photographer: shengliang su

location: huashan road, jing’an district, shanghai, china

area: 2800 sqm

completion time: 2019.01



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edited by: cristina gomez | designboom