wutopia lab renovates old shanghai house into modern art gallery and residence

wutopia lab renovates old shanghai house into modern art gallery and residence

wutopia lab converted an old house located in the heart of shanghai into a secret space that includes a courtyard, a miniature private gallery, home office and residence. the original structure, which used to house six families, the facade, antique mosaic tiles and old wooden floors were all meant to be kept and incorporated into the new design. the house’s complex space layout was rethought into many different types of rooms, resulting in a project full of textures, colors and contrasts. 




the architects were not allowed to drastically change the house’s form and spaces, but were encouraged to trace back to the basic elements of its architecture. through the use of color and textures, the designers identified the different spaces and assigned new characters to the existing rooms. using textured and patterned materials, coupled with shades of black and white, the house portrays these opposites in aesthetic combinations.




wutopia lab used the design’s tones, lines, contrasts, and shades between light and dark to create the spaces. they removed the unnecessary doors to open up wider social areas. the closed and independent dark pattern formed by the multi-family residence turned into an ample space with a natural light because of the opening of the door. the space also includes a well-connected light well, a galley without a gap, and a three-open office areas with a view. 




black ink renders the courtyard and highlights the three old trees that were preserved. the architects used matte, glossy and black marble as well as dark gray gravel as the main colors for the different levels. the courtyard is a modern rendition of a chinese courtyard and includes a tulip-like brass grille screen, while the original wall is visually separated from the courtyard as a subtle background.




the courtyard intrinsically becomes part of the facade and the interior space. the miniature gallery on the first floor is the main space of the house, and relates directly to the courtyard outside. the three spaces of the gallery are wrapped in a continuous black wall skirt, and the difference in the pattern of the wall skirt implies a functional distinction between the living space, the exhibition hall and the social space. 



after the partition walls and patio doors were removed, the house became lighter and more open. the architects used eight arched doorways with golden rims and glass walls of klein blue, as well as the fading light to distort the scale of the site forming a blue labyrinth. the first floor gallery used a two-meter-high black wood grain wall skirt with three different textures, as well as a beige white stucco ceiling and a grey disc multi-grinding.



the second-floor office area is shaped by a glossy black wall skirt and a refurbished narrow strip of old, white walls, a stunning contrast. the three-level intimate resting space is a medium-gray environment with black and white terrazzo, rough medium-gray stucco and narrow antique floors combined with the original furniture. the meditation room on the top is in gray, reducing the intensity of the light. 



the hypocam house’s result reflects the visual grain of black and white vintage film. the materials and colors show the difference in space and texture of the subtle layers layer by layer. different from the aggressive magical realism image formed by the artistic treatment of daily forms in wutopia lab’s public projects, the private home presents the retreat and subtraction of complex geometries into pure forms and colors. 




project info:


project name: hypocam house

architecture: wutopia lab

location: shanghai, china



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: cristina gomez | designboom

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