For the nearly 10 years, Shanghai’s West Bund district has been busy transforming from a neglected industrial ward defined by aircraft manufacturing warehouses, power plants and textile mills into a culture-oriented urban destination. Contributing to the region’s rebirth has been the proliferation of museums and art galleries, design festivals and fashion weeks, along with lush parkland and greenspacing endeavours that hug the waterfront and promote physical activities like walking and cycling. It’s a provocative mix of old and new, ambition and tradition.
Adding to the area’s unique and creative landscape is the U Concept Gallery, located in the Sunny Walk pedestrian plaza. Combing cultural, educational and commercial programs under one roof, the gallery’s design needed to reflect its experimental and unfettered approach. Enter local design practice LukStudio, whose “everything is attitude” was an ideal match for the unconventional space.
Comprising 260 square metres spread across two floors, U Concept Gallery is packed with utility but characterized by a rectilinear layout that deftly promotes an easy flow. The programming of the gallery includes classrooms and two painting workspaces (one for adults, one for kids), display areas for up to 20 different artists to showcase their works, plus a café and lounge, a multipurpose room and ample storage.
To pack all that functionality in to the alley-like space, LukStudio installed a series of archways that simultaneously reveal and obscure views – some of the arches are slightly askew while others are more conventionally arranged, resulting in a curiously disjointed journey throughout. Within this suitably pristine white envelope, a warm-wood volume rises from the ground and spans the entire length of one wall.
Tucked underneath, a window-backed café anchors the ground level with multiple lounges, painting rooms and even an outdoor terrace spreading out from this central core. Staircases on either end lead to the wood-wrapped upper level, which houses more displays and lounges.
While carefully organized, the gallery posses a natural flow and sense of freedom; guests are encouraged to wander, contemplate, learn and shop in order to experience the space on an individual level.