At the heart of Shanghai’s Social House by Xintiandi, a spiral staircase winds through the tall atrium, unspooling with a clean and pleasant symmetry. Flanked by a ribbon of bookshelves, the stairs beckon visitors through rows of books, conveying a sort of portal into the world of the printed word. It’s an immersive space – accented by a visual narrative – and one that embodies the experience of the complex.
Designed by local firm Kokaistudios, Social House by Xintiandi combines retail, co-working space, a cafe, and an event venue into an expansive and visually expressive multi-storey hub. Situated near the heart of the eponymous Xintiandi neighbourhood – a luxe and largely car-free shopping district of revitalized 19th-century houses – the new commercial centre weaves an aesthetic journey through the richly programmed environment.
Inspired by the seasons, the eclectic program is visually delineated into four distinct zones. Past the escalators, the visitors enter into a colourful and vibrant space dubbed the Spring Garden. A rotating collection of fashion- and beauty-oriented pop-up shops fill the flexible space. The brightness and energy of the space makes a fitting home for the fast-paced retail program.
Summer is all about nourishment and the body. Alongside a culinary school and a teahouse, a gallery displays exhibitions of travel photography. The open space deftly slides into the bookstore, which leads visitors up to the marquee staircase. Here, the bright hints of summer sun give way to more muted autumn colours.
Up the stairs, the seasonal motifs unfold with greater subtlety. Wood tones foster a sense of calm, while a café and bakery – branded and by Elle Decor – complement the slower-paced ambiance. The autumnal space is rounded out with a casual lounge and co-working space. A flexible arrangement of tables and chairs transitions from a day-lit lounge – inviting a book or laptop – to an informal meeting space, as well as a dedicated area for literary readings and bookstore events.
Winter has yet to come. Now in the final stages of development, a gym and open kitchen will round out the complex, with the cooler tones of winter hinting a sleek space. For now, the Social House by Xintiandi conveys visitors through the space with subtle yet thoughtful visual storytelling, matching the program of each space with a complementary aesthetic.
In Shanghai, the combination of a diverse program and an immersive design evinces a focus on experiential retail. With online shopping taking a greater share of Chinese consumer spending, Social House by Xintiandi offers an experience that can’t be replicated behind the screen. The space – and the journey through it – might just be more important than what’s for sale.
Kokaistudios combines retail, a co-working space, a cafe, and an event venue into an expansive and visually expressive multi-storey hub.