“We don’t ask to be eternal beings, we only ask that things do not lose all their meaning.”
Established in 2004 by partners Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, Neri & Hu Design and Research Office is a multi-disciplinary architectural design practice based in Shanghai, China, and works internationally providing architecture, interior, master planning, graphic, and product design services.
Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu are also Founders of Design Republic, a retail concept store based in Shanghai that offers a unique collection of products created by the world’s best furniture design talents, many of which have never before been made available to consumers in China.
Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu founded their Shanghai design studio in 2006.
Their motto, “Imprint of Heritage, modern reinterpretation”, says it all–their intention is to release the potential in traditional Chinese design—to provide a modernist take on centuries of craft.
Most Neri + Hu products are hand made, exemplars of a place whose master craftsmen can still be found waiting for patrons in the lanes of Shanghai.
Examples of their work can be seen at such prestige addresses as the Pollen Street Social in London and the Waterhouse in Shanghai.
Architecture studio Neri & Hu has opened a design gallery, shop and event space in a former colonial police station in Shanghai’s Jingan district.
The concept for the Design Republic Commune is to bring designers from around the city to hopefully have a place where they can have a discourse in architecture, in product design, in interior design, to have a place where they could shop, a place where they could rest, a place where they could meander and wander and see different shops and different stores, different products, and at the same time be a part of an exhibition, or be part of a gallery, or be part of a talk.
The architects hope the spaces will be able to showcase the vibrancy of China’s growing design scene. ”We want to bring the best of what the world can offer to China and hopefully one day bring the best of what China can offer back to the world,” said Neri.
The existing building has a heaviness, and a kind of institutional feel, so the big open glass lets you see through a lot of visual corridors, or openings between floors that didn’t used to exist.
For the conversion, the architects peeled back the decaying layers of wood and plaster, before restoring the original brickwork and adding new walls and rooms using a materials palette of glass, metal sheeting and white plaster.
A new glass structure runs along the facade of the building, creating a modern shopfront for Design Republic. Elsewhere in the building, the architects have created a restaurant, a cafe, a lecture hall and a one-room hotel.
The Design Republic Commune, located in the center of Shanghai, envisions itself as a design hub, a gathering space for designers and design patrons alike to admire, ponder, exchange, learn, and consume. It houses the new flagship store for Design Republic, a modern furniture retailer, alongside a mixture of design-focused retail concepts, including books, fashion, lighting, accessories and flowers. The Commune will also have a design gallery, an event space, a café, a restaurant by Michelin-Starred Chef Jason Atherton, and a one-bedroom Design Republic apartment.
Situated within the historic relic of the Police Headquarters built by the British in the 1910s, the project takes a surgical approach to renovation. First, gently removing the decaying wood and plaster, then carefully restoring the still vibrant red brickwork, while grafting on skin, joints, and organs onto parts that needed reconstruction. And finally with the attachment of a brand new appendage which, like a prosthetic, enables the existing building to perform new functions, the nearly abandoned building begins its life again.
Replacing the rather dilapidated row-shops on the street front, Neri&Hu introduced a modern glassy insertion onto the brick façade.
To accentuate the historic nature of the main building, the street level periphery is enveloped by transparent glazing to reveal the existing brickwork and rough concrete structures. Breathing new life into a traditional colonial building plan, Neri&Hu strategically removed certain floor plates, walls, as well as ceiling panels, to allow a renewed experience of the existing building, one that is fitting for the new functions to which the building now needs to respond.
Various small and precise incisions have been made in the interior architecture to reveal the building’s history and integrity while creating experiential intersections for a coherent experience when moving through the building. Contrasting with the exterior which has mostly been left intact due to historic preservation guidelines, the interior has been completely transformed.
The starkly modern white rooms are juxtaposed with untouched remnants of brick walls, and in some cases, exposed wood laths underneath crumbling plaster walls. The clear intentionality behind the detailing of connections between the old and the new creates a visually and spatially tectonic balance in relation to the building as a whole.
The Black Box is a five-story office building located in the former French Concession, which also includes a street-level storefront space.
The concept of the “Black Box” is the guiding concept behind the architecture–modeled after the “black box” flight data recorder; it is used symbolically to represent the “storage” of conversation, ideas, thinking and research in the creative studio office.
The black box also serves the function of protecting that recording in the event of a crash, fire or tragedy, analogous to the role of a design office servicing as a container of its intellectual production and protection from outside damage.
The black box offers poignant, relevant and passionate design ideas with meaning and purpose to clients who may have had to face design tragedies in their lives. The ground floor in the form of a retail store displays some of these designed objects produced in the offices above, rendering it a window into the contents of the black box.
On the ground level, two wooden facades make up the base of the building, one comprising the new Design Republic store and the other leading up to the Design Republic and Neri & Hu Design and Research office. The gallery and store on the ground level then becomes an extension of the street. Above this glass and wooden exterior, a four-story dark façade is extruded and “cut” to reveal windows into the building.
Within the Design Republic space, the wooden box is pierced to reveal white boxes that frame the main display area. Private offices are contained within glass walls, just like within the original Design Republic office on the Bund.
About Neri & Hu
Currently working on projects in eight countries, Neri & Hu is composed of multi-cultural staffs with a capacity to speak over 20 different languages.
The diversity of the team reinforces a core vision for the practice: to respond to a global worldview incorporating overlapping design disciplines for a new paradigm in architecture.
Neri & Hu’s location is purposeful; with Shanghai considered a new global frontier, Neri & Hu is in the center of this contemporary chaos.
The city’s cultural, urban, and historic contexts function as a point of departure for the architectural explorations involved in every project. Because new sets of contemporary problems relating to buildings now extend beyond traditional architecture, the practice challenges traditional boundaries of architecture to include other complementary disciplines.
Neri & Hu believes strongly in research as a design tool, as each project bears its unique set of contextual issues, a critical probing into the specificities of program, site, function, and history is essential to the creation of rigorous design work.
Based on research, Neri & Hu desires to anchor its work on the dynamic interaction of experience, detail, material, form, and light rather than conforming to a formulaic style. The ultimate significance behind each project comes from how the built forms create meaning through their physical representations.
The upper two stories will comprise the Neri&Hu Design and Research office space, which is connected vertically with openings and horizontally with a bridge.
The conference room consists of two stacked boxes, a wooden box atop a white box. The room is visible from the upper level through an opening alongside the bridge
In China, architecture is big business. Both the Olympics last year in Beijing and the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai were predicated on bold design.
Unfortunately, the story of contemporary architecture in this vast country is often one of fleeting spectacle.
Running an architecture practice, NHDRO (Neri & Hu Design Research Office), producing a product line, Neri & Hu, and operating a Shanghai gallery, Design Republic, American-raised Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu reveal a much more complex portrait of working in China.
After meeting at the University of California, Berkeley, Neri and Hu attended architecture school at Harvard and Princeton Universities, respectively, before spending more than a decade at Michael Graves & Associates, which is what first brought the husband-wife team to Shanghai.
While Design Republic introduces China to manufacturers such as Tom Dixon, and others, NHDRO has taken on master-planning in Wuxi for Miami real-estate company DACRA; hotels in Shanghai, Xi’an, and Tibet; residential projects in Shanghai, Singapore, Mexico City, and Florida; and even cemeteries in China and the Philippines.
About Lyndon Neri
Lyndon Neri is a Founding Partner of Neri & Hu Design and Research Office, a multi-disciplinary international architectural design practice based in Shanghai, China, which was selected as one of the ten firms for Design Vanguard 2009 by Architectural Record, USA. Mr. Neri received a Master of Architecture at Harvard University and a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley.
Prior to starting his own practice with partner Rossana Hu, he was the Director for Projects in Asia and an Associate for Michael Graves & Associates in Princeton for over 10 years, and also worked in New York City for various architectural firms.
Other than an architectural professional, Mr. Neri has been actively involved in teaching and research. He served as an active visiting critic for design schools in the U.S. such as Princeton University, Harvard Graduate School of Design, University of California at Berkeley, and Syracuse University. In 2006, he was selected by I.D. Magazine as one of the 40 designers globally who deserve more attention in the “I.D. 40”
Lyndon Neri is also a founder of Design Republic, a retail concept store based in Shanghai that offers a unique collection of products created by the world’s best design talents, many of which have never before been made available to consumers in China.
The flagship store design, created by Neri & Hu, recently earned the DFA (Design For Asia) Best Design of Greater China 2007 and Perspective Award 2009 Best Retail Design.
Aside from Architecture and Interiors, Mr. Neri is actively working on a number of industrial design products for various brands in Europe and developing their own product line under the monicker brand ‘neri & hu’.
They also published and edited a book called ‘Persistence of Vision’. The book is a beginning of a series of exploration on architecture and urban issues in major cities in China.
About Rossana Hu
Rossana Hu is a Founding Partner of Neri & Hu Design and Research Office, a multi-disciplinary international architectural design practice based in Shanghai, China, which was selected as one of the ten firms for Design Vanguard 2009 by Architectural Record, USA. Ms.
Hu received a Master of Architecture and Urban Planning from Princeton University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and Music from the University of California at Berkeley.
Before establishing Neri & Hu, Rossanna worked for Michael Graves & Associates, Ralph Lerner Architect in Princeton, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in New York City, and The Architects Collaborative (TAC) in San Francisco.
Rossana Hu received the Perspective Award as one of the ‘40 under 40’ prominent designers shaping Hong Kong and Greater China.
Ms. Hu is also a Founding Partner and Creative Executive for Design Republic, a Founding Panel Member of 100% Design Shanghai, and the Regional Advisor for The Atlas of 21st Century Architecture, to be published by Phaidon Press.
Ms. Hu has served on prestigious professional committees such as the Princeton University President’s Advisory Committee on Architecture, where she advised the President on architectural design and campus planning issues.
She has won numerous traveling fellowship awards and has been a guest design critic at Princeton University, UC Berkeley, and Syracuse University.
About Pedro Pegenaute – Photographer
Pedro Pegenaute, born in Pamplona 1977.
Freelance photographer specialized in architecture since 2005, year in which he shelves his former and successful career as a foreman builder in order to devote himself exclusively to photography after taking his photography course at the Efti School in 2004 in Madrid.
Since then he has worked with architects such as Rafael Moneo, Patxi Mangado, Zaha Hadid, Josep Lluís Mateo, Nieto y Sobejano, Herzog and de Meuron, Ramón Úbeda, Jordi Badía, among other national and international prestigious architects.
He usually collaborates with important national and international magazines and publishing media specialized in architecture, such as Arquitectura Viva, Casabella, Domus, Electa, Mark Magazine, A+U, Abitare, Actar, Pasajes, Concept, etc.