GRNDCNTRL a theatrical nightclub in Shanghai


Shanghai’s upscale Xintiandi district is the result of a large-scale redevelopment project that provides a new supply of housing, offices, retail, entertainment and cultural assets in the heart of the city. This urban development aims to integrate Shikumen architecture, namely two- or three-story structures that resemble western terraced houses, characterized by high brick walls surrounding a narrow front yard.
In the southern part of Xintiandi, called Nan Li, the PIG DESIGN workshop led by architect Li Wenqiang, along with other Chinese and international designers, recently collaborated on the co-creation of the GRNDCNTRL nightclub. A new nightclub concept, which combines the functions of a contemporary and retro space for evening entertainment, all in harmony with the trendy context in which it is located.
Upon entry, Li Wenqiang’s design with PIG Studio welcomes guests with an avant-garde, experimental and engaging spirit, providing an evocative ambience that transports users to a surreal world full of mysterious lights and shadows. All this, however, distinguishing itself – as the architect explains – from most typical Shanghai nightclubs, dominated by the homogeneous “underground” style. Indeed, the will is to position GRNDCNTRL as a “Shanghai Nightlife Cultural Center“, using the metaphorical concept of a theater.
The integration of the concept of theater makes the visual game much more complex. The bar counter is set back to make room for the “stage”, to showcase the people and the music. The restrooms, meanwhile, flaunt a retro aesthetic that bucks the usual trend, serving as a “back stage” where nightclub patrons can rest.
Inside the 9 meter high main space we find a balanced and harmonious design language. The spatial narratives and functional layout are centered around the elevator-style DJ stage, providing an unexpected experience and panoramic views of the entire space. Stone materials, mirror finishes, paint, stainless steel and leather are carefully combined to create what becomes each guest’s personal scene.
The large hall of the discotheque is characterized by a hip pop music style, with a strong emphasis on art and technology, thus offering a bold avant-garde and futuristic spatial experience. On the other hand, the small room is dominated by the house & techno musical style, full of immersive lights and shadows that create a distinct retro movie-like vibe. The two mirrored spatial scenes take into account the needs of different user groups.
GRNDCNTRL nightclub stands out from other similar venues in Shanghai with an elaborate artistic design, supported by an advanced sound system and intricate lighting effects that elevate the venue in its function, as can be clearly seen in the created video by the architects:

As Li Wenqiang explained in a statement: “The nightclub acts as a cultural vector like ancient theaters, welcoming minds and emotions and shaping people’s character. Based on the background of the era and the city, GRNDCNTRL creates a dramatic black-toned “improv scene” to take modern people on an enjoyable and exciting journey.”

Christiane Burklein

Location: Shanghai, China
Year: 2021
Image: SFAP


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