Text description provided by the architects. The Living Room by Octave is the adaptive re-use of an historic structure into a 21,500-square foot educational and wellness center plus restaurant. The project is a hub for services including early childhood development programs, family therapy, art therapy, yoga, body works, a health-oriented restaurant and teaching kitchen, and a small-scale urban farm. In addition to designing the architecture and interiors, we worked in partnership with the client Octave to conceive the project, shape its program, and then brand its services.
The project is an alternative models for development in China, where sudden and outpaced urbanization is challenging and transforming historical, cultural, and ecological ties among people, the landscape, and ways of life. A longer term goal for the project is to demonstrate the profitability and value of Octave to the Chinese government, which oversees many underperforming sites (in public housing and other public spaces) that could benefit from Octave’s services and financial models. In this sense, the Living Room is a testing ground for different scales, price points, and audiences for wellness services and architecture.
The design intentionally incorporates and showcases local and ancient Chinese crafts. For example, broken brick paving in the courtyard, a fieldstone fireplace in one of the dining spaces, and a handwoven twig fence surrounding the rooftop farm celebrate the hand of their makers and help to preserve traditional construction techniques. In fact, Principal Calvin Tsao personally made the large linen chandeliers in one of the dining spaces. These lighting fixtures use a handwoven burlap that Calvin purchased in a Shanghai flea market. The utilitarian textile is made in rural China by weavers, and its width determined the size of the chandeliers. In addition to cultural preservation, the Living Room achieves the highest standards of environmental performance, as exemplified by its air and water filtration systems among other low and high-tech environmental features.
This project is related Sangha, a cultural, educational, and wellness center supported by two boutique hotels and single- and multiple-family residences in Suzhou. Spread across 46-acres, Sangha is scheduled to open later this year and will complement the Living Room in nearby Shanghai. At Sangha, we invited Neri & Hu Architects and Atelier FCJZ (Yung Ho Chang) to join us in designing residences in order to stimulate a spirit of community and co-creation.