Minimalist Aesthetics Inspire China Studio

Sergio Mannino

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At the end of the seventies, Shenzhen was a small market town of less than thirty thousand people. By 2016 it was a megacity of 12 million, and its population rate has not slowed down since. China sees many urban inner-city projects like ours, but Shenzhen is unique in its very sudden economic and cultural boom and resultant young population, and we had to accommodate for this. The average person living in Shenzhen is just under 30 years old.

The biggest challenge we faced throughout the project was translating our design aesthetic into something that would be appreciated by the local buyers - without compromising on the Studio language. To gain an understanding of the aesthetic we were after, we visited several new residential projects in Shenzhen and nearby Hong Kong. We found that these projects were all characterized by a high level of décor; no white walls or plain surfaces anywhere. This is a major difference compared to the US and the Western world in general, where minimalism is often strongly favored across many design platforms.

Were we to adopt a minimalist practice for this project, however, we were at risk of appearing cheap or lazy. We began to understand that luxury in Chinese design is usually defined by an abundance of materials and finishes, with emphasis on stone and marble surfaces. Initially, our team found adapting to these unfamiliar design values quite challenging, having come from a markedly different cultural background and design training. Regardless of the design choices, however, our main priority was to ensure that the project was a commercial success.

After some hard but rewarding work merging these Chinese expectations with our own design sensibility, we managed to negotiate an attractive outcome. The final design was rich and colorful with an emphasis on marble - without being overly grandiose. All the apartments were sold long before completion at asking price or more. The client was very pleased with the final result, and so we were.

Photos courtesy of Sergio Mannino

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