A few years ago, there were many old buildings being demolished in downtown Shanghai. Walking around the city’s streets, one often saw half-destroyed houses with some of their walls ripped off, exposing rooms with peeling wallpaper, faded pastel-coloured walls, rectangles of ceramic-tiles where bathrooms or kitchens were, ceilings with crumbling decorative rosettes or edged with mouldings, and an assortment of broken furniture too unworthy to be salvaged by the city’s army of scavengers. The effect was one of a visual collage of colours, textures and objects; a frozen montage of settings and scenes where lives seemed to have left in a hurry.
The second Super Sense Spa occupies an old 1930s three-and-a-half-storey townhouse on a narrow street in the shopping district of the city centre. In recent months, many more shops, cafes and restaurants have appeared along this once quiet residential street.
Within the possibilities of this commercial spa content, we are interested to make spaces that evoke the feeling of such old buildings, yet present something novel, something new. Here, we want its spaces to jumble up feelings of old and new, then and now; as if time were not an arrow but simply a catalogue, a collage.
The spatial experience of the spa is characterised by small-scaled rooms at every half landing of the central staircase. New spaces will have walls of different materials and colours. Typically, one wall is clay-tiled, one covered with a wallpaper which we had designed, and others painted in emulsion paint over rough plaster. Old timber ceiling rafters are partially exposed. The shower and water closet is hidden from view behind a free-standing mirrored wall with vanity top and wash basin. The interior experience of the spa is at once intimate and rich, made with colours and textures that are not typically found in a spa, but reminds one of both the old Shanghai world and a possible future one.
For the exterior, the strategy is reversed. Instead of being colourful and rich, we kept the facade of the building simple, rough and dull-coloured to contrast with the over-abundant visual effects of its neighbours along the street.