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Co-working: Beautiful Collisions of Old and New

A turn of the century brick building with a lively past is transformed into an extremely active co-working space for WeWork Shanghai.

  • The staircase weaves through the circulation space to connect all three levels of the front of house

  • The staircase is clad in triangular pieces of oak wood, with one side painted in hues of blue

  • A host of casual work arrangements can be found in the atrium

  • In the central communal space, members can engage with one another on a social level

  • One can view the historical brick facade from the atrium

  • Pastel diagonal strips wrap the floor and wall of the main atrium, creating a hardscape carpet

  • (Right) A ‘Ring for Service’ sign playfully alludes to the services of a hotel

  • (Left) The bathroom comes with custom printed tiles. (Right) Custom wallpaper continues the festive and playful theme

  • The bar transports one into a retro oriental parlor



BY Janice Seow

March 2nd, 2017


When WeWork decided to set up a co-working space in a historical building in the heart of Shanghai, they put Linehouse to the task of designing a place that considered its past while maintaining high functionality as an active space for work and collaboration.

“WeWork saw an opportunity to approach the design of this space with an elevated and refined aesthetic – something that was also reflected in the grand nature of the building,” says Linehouse co-founder Briar Hickling.

The building had formerly served as an artist residence and an opium factory and had been unoccupied for some years. Hickling explains that Linehouse, in collaboration with WeWork’s design team, have sought to create an atmosphere of a grand hotel and to bring guests and members “on an unexpected journey of whimsy, voyeurism and festivity.”

Upon arrival guests pass through an old laneway, framed by a traditional Chinese arch. The laneway walls and concrete floor are painted pink with lights festively suspended from above.

The existing site is a combination of a historical brick building and industrial additions that have been added over the years. The reception is located in this in-between zone of the old and new. Playing up on this narrative, the reception counter is clad in heritage wood paneling, surrounded by a concrete base. Behind the counter, guests are greeted with a neon sign that reads ‘Ring for Service’.

The existing steel structure is painted ivy green, and a new black handrail leaner wraps the triple height space, allowing guests to be spectators to the activities in the central atrium space. In addition, the second and third floor pantries (designed with a playful opium factory narrative), surrounding offices and staircase landings all serve as ‘platforms’ for observing the goings on below.

The central atrium space operates as a communal zone for members to work in a more social setting and includes a variety of different arrangements from hot desks to lounge seating and nooks. Private office areas are located in the heritage building.

Colourful details abound. Among others, a patterned and curved terrazzo tray was inserted to define the central atrium; a bronze structure above the terrazzo perimeter wall holds up mirrors, artwork, shelving and lighting; and in the void space, pink and grey cabling thread through circular bronze rings from which hang custom glass shades.

The space is also designed to transition smoothly from day to night. During the day, WeWork serves as a place for work, meetings and seminars and in the evening, the vibe becomes more intimate where the atrium space turns into a bar for example. Hickling explains, “The design encourages members to engage with one another, to interact on a social level which is one of WeWork’s driving ethos.”