Shanghai Huijian invited Wutopia Lab to design a welcoming stage in front of the sales’ center of their project in Huzhou. The only request from the client was to make it different. We can design the façade of the sales’ center but keep the interior unchanged.
Designing from Criticism: Anti-generic City
In China, no matter where you are, as long as you live in a so-called “modern city”, you can find the drastic similarity among all of them, that they are all “seems” new, but with no character, no history, no center and no planning. People are living in similar houses that either are “Neo-Classicalism”or have a“New Art Deco”façade led by local developers. Every one actually lives very differently. However, now our distinctive lives are all covered by those generic but flashy Generic City masks.
Yu Ting was invited to design the interior of an apartment in a Reality TV Show called Dream Home. He took every wall he could take from the apartment, which means that he changed it from a three-bedroom to a one-bedroom apartment. This move brought Yu Ting criticism from all over the internet. That was one of his experiments to change the way people live normally (although this normal had just lasted for less than 40 years).
Since the client generously gave Yu Ting the freedom to design this stage, Yu ting could not let this chance go. He wants to create this new space, later named White Upland by him, that is a combination of architecture, landscape, interior, lighting, art installation and the most personal moments we have in our lives, memories and emotions. He made this welcoming stage of a sales’ center a communal place, a surreal garden where people around this neighborhood, as well as people from Huzhou could come to enjoy. This is his Manifesto of Anti-generic city.
Design can be rather subjective
In White Upland, Yu Ting started from his own experience and decided to make Dream as the design principle. Instead of changing the façade of the sales’ center, he chose to cover it by his design. While the original sales’ center remains most normal, boring condition, it becomes the most powerful contrast to this distinctive, history-making White Upland. Subjectivity is also anti-generic.
Life is a series of obstacles and challenges. Only within the storm, people could deeply perceive the most important meaning of life. Therefore, if there is one place, where people could escape from the reality, forget the pain and pressure that time brings us physically and mentally, it must be in the dreams. Yes, people need daydreams, and daydreaming is anti-generic.
Building an Anti-generic dream with Generic materials
The client wants this garden to showcase the prefabrication technologies in this project. Yu Ting chose the very generic material, steel. Last time the Models in Model, he managed to create a semi-transparent screen from continuous steel column. This time, to achieve the same result, he used 529 six-meter-high steel columns to mark the boundary of White Upland, as well as resolve the façade of the sales’ center.
The main narrative of White Upland was inspired by Yu Ting’s daughter, Tangtang’s dream. Forest is one of the most frequent elements in Tangtang’s dream. Yu Ting used 108 white steel columns in three sizes to form this abstract forest. Then follow the visitors’ circulation, he made different landscapes, such as caves, hills, streams, rocks, highlands, waterfalls and theatres in the woods. He referenced from Rene Magritte’s painting, to abstract those landscapes. He also used facilities to create weather here, then it has starry sky, cloudy sky, sunrise, fog, sounds and smells from the nature, and a bonfire. Making them white makes all of them surreal. Eventually, Yu Ting succeeded in using the most generic materials and manipulations to build an exuberant anti-genetic dream-land, a 3300 m2 White Upland by 106 tons of steel.
White Upland is a hyper-text mosaiced with many life fragments.
White Upland creates a mega architecture hyper-text, mosaiced with a lot of desires, emotions, memories and hopes in our lives.
You can see the Trojan horse under the clouds. This prop, which represents the innocence of an adult child, has repeatedly appeared in Yu Ting’s series of dream designs. You can also see swings, colorful bunkers, stars in your eyes. These fragments, which once flashed in life, are re-fined and mosaiced into White Upland. Of course, if that’s all, it’s just flattery. Life is much more than that. Yu Ting is particularly fond of the fountain in Shanghai’s Jing’an Kerry Center. It is not only a landscape, but also a playground for children to interact with, but also a meet-point for people to socialize. So on the plaza hidden in the forest, he set up a fountain of 117 nozzles. Opposite the fountain is the huge covered theater, where bands can perform in the summer. These two places make up the social life scene of family and friends. The bonfire in the middle of the forest is a red cone woven by the Roboticplus.ai with 5954 meters of fluorescent carbon fiber. It is a solid flame that one can enter. In the white forest, on the white hills, at the center of white upland, people can find safe and warm, or love. In this way, the unrealistic White Upland actually reflects a real life text.
White Upland mosaiced in Symbolism, Metaphors, History, Myths and Signs
At the entrance of White Upland, there is an ink garden surrounded by 16 red maple trees. The 50 tons of black mountain stones are like ink, which in the white dream implies a trace of local history, geography and culture as the south of the Yangtze River.
Going through the Ink Garden, before entering the forest that suggests the future, you will encounter the White Upland’s eye, a dark blue but cool-lighted cave. In this moment when you paused in the “eye”, you will understand that no matter how much uncertainty life has, but at least this moment is firm and happy, is hope.
In White Upland, you can shrink like Alice in the Wonderland. The fragile clover becomes a towering tree then form a forest. Through this transformation, you can recognize your bodies and strengthen them
White Upland can also be read, mosaiced with symbols representing different scenes on the ground. These abstract signs are actually words specially designed for this steel garden. They help you understand the language of dreams and read it more thoroughly.
Time slowed down in White Upland. You know, with our world defined by precise timers, everyone has a sense of urgency and anxiety about the inevitable end. The real significance of the time that White Upland has slowed down becomes apparent as we linger in tiny but recurring dreams. But in White Upland, there is another scale of time. Here you can not only appreciate the beauty of subtle moments, but also find satisfaction in re-thinking the meaning of life cycle. Reincarnation is a concept of time that contemporary people no longer believe. However, the world behind ourselves has become the next stage of life interaction. Reincarnation makes life longer than a single end point. This concept of time contributes to the most important life experience of Chinese people — vitality.
The footprint of White Upland is an infinite symbol. Dream can be infinite. So is hope. It’s important for people to understand that something temporary, like White Upland, is created may be just for the pleasure or happiness of seeing an idea come true. People are even willing to take time to create buildings and places that are basically useless. Transitory, fleeting, yet paradoxical, has a more permanent meaning in White Upland. It’s not just a dream, it’s actually a sacred space about a better life.
When the continuous lampposts of White Upland border are lit in the night, anyone will immediately understand that this place full of metaphor and symbolic meanings is more profound than the form of architecture.
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Client: Shanghai Huijian Investment Co., Ltd.
Chief Architect: Yu Ting
Project Architect: Dai Xinyang, Li Zongze
Design Team: Wang Dong, Wu Zhen, Xu Nan
Design Development: Shanghai J.L LV HUA Co., Ltd.
(Peng Feng, Feng Jiming, Li Peiyong, Bao Xuerui, Mao Xinfu, Yang Di, Xie Peirong, Cui Huaming, Dong Xinyu)
Bonfire Manufacture: Roboticplus.ai
(Meng Hao, Lai Guanting, Lu Yanchen, Lin Zhewei, Ha Yuhong, Chen Yu, Shi Yiping, Shen Bao, Wang Zhenjia)
Lighting Consultant: Chole Zhang
Graphic Design Team: HDU23, Wutopia Lab
Client’s Architect: Wu Gang, Wang Ruizhe