Located in the historic centre of Shenyang, an expansive metropolis in northeastern China, LOVIVO Gallery stands out against the age-old environs including the adjacent 17th century Shenyang Imperial Palace, thanks to its futuristic, high tech-inflected interior design. Commissioned by a technology company to design a gallery space and employee lounge within their office building, Shenyang-based architecture practice BAICAI Design have drawn inspiration from the paradigm shifting potential that high-tech companies promise to create a series of spaces that defy expectations. Combining the idea of the matrix with the concepts of infinity, weightlessness and ambiguity, the architects have dematerialised the spatial experience urging visitors to explore the premises and by extension think about the infinite possibilities that the future holds.
Taking over the ground floor of a historic building housing the client’s office, the gallery features mirror-clad walls and floor-to-ceiling luminous LED screens, four of which can be rotated to reveal an adjacent meeting room and staircase, imbuing the space with the illusion of infinity. A one-metre-by-one-metre grid on both the floor and ceiling add to the disorientating sensation of infinite space, while the subdivision of the floor grid into ten-by-ten cm square tiles further dematerialize the gallery’s interior. Steel-clad, monolithic, angular volumes, one of which conceals the reception desk, appear to be randomly placed across the space in juxtaposition to the floor and ceiling grids thereby further subverting the visitors’ spatial perception. Once the rotating LED screens open up, the infinity effect is disrupted and yet the sense of wonderment carries on thanks to the dynamic design of the staircase’s steel balustrade. Conceived as a two-dimensional sculpture, it rises up to connect all four floors, its angular cut-outs enhancing its graphic sensibility.
Serving as an employee lounge, the first-floor, open-plan space echoes the gallery’s deconstructed materiality and perceptual ambiguity. Intersecting lines and geometric shapes interrupt the rectilinear order of the room as do a series of geometric volumes that make up an abstract sculptural landscape. A variety of mirrors, from ceiling panels to shelving backdrops, are mixed with gleaming steel and polished stone surfaces, further enriching the spatial experience. As in the gallery below, the deceptive playfulness of the interior design allows occupants to mentally reconstruct the space as they please, the infinite possibilities of such an exercise alluding to the transformative potential of our technology-driven society.