Neri&Hu skirted building guidelines with this corrugated steel coffee shop, which inhabits – but doesn’t disturb – the historic architecture of Shanghai’s Zhang Yuan compound.
Opened to the public in 1885, Zhang Yuan is one of the best-preserved examples of Shikumen architecture in Shanghai, as well as a site of historical significance – the first electric lamp in China was lit here, and it was also home to the first outdoor photo booth, as well as boxing matches, operatic performances and was even dubbed the ‘No 1 public garden of Shanghai’.
In 2022 the compound partially reopened after a four-year-long renovation.
Blue Bottle Zhang Yuan cafe is based in what was once a residence, meaning strict building rules govern it. To avoid damaging or changing the original brick walls, door and windows, Neri&Hu installed a corrugated steel structure in the heart of the space.
The cafe counter sits beneath a dramatic sloping awning, with benches and tables tucked down the sides of the hut and against windows and walls – something Neri&Hu says is a ‘nod to the leisurely social moments of life in the Shikumen’. Other pieces of traditional furniture emphasise the connections between old and new.
W5-1A, 240 North Maoming Road, Jing’an district, Shanghai, China