A once empty storefront on the ground floor of a residential complex near Guangzhou’s central Tianhe district has found new life at the hand of Shanghai’s Lukstudio. The setting had been vacant for three months before the team came in, crafting a café and office space driven by the minimalist work of Aires Mateus and John Pawson, translating a contemporary social solution in a nondescript residential setting.
“Our approach was one of purifying the existing chaos into a calm environment,” says Lukstudio founder Christina Luk. “The site itself came with a lot of quirky characters: an irregular plan, messy columns and beams, sporadic pipes, etc.”
Emerging from beneath a floating concrete canopy, the layout comprises four gray “boxes” that include the café, the brainstorming area, the meeting room, and the breakout lounge. Separated by an alley that connects back to the street, the café and brainstorming areas feature white ceiling pockets and wooden niches to create a sense of intimacy, while splashes of gray appear in interior voids to offset the vibrant white palette.
The office entrance is carved to frame a tranquil Zen garden, which serves as a focal point and added visual connection between the boxes. Brand signage depicting a home with an open door graces the entrance to the café, which includes weather-resistant merbau wood for its outdoor patio, while white oak veneer spans the interior. White walls and terrazzo floors create an airy, bright atmosphere in the main space, apt choices for the capture of light and shadow against the smooth surfaces. “Our strategy was to light the spaces with as much indirect lighting as possible,” says Luk, so the team opted for simple and elegant fixtures like string lights and pendant lamps.
The interior’s pure definition is perpetuated by polycarbonate panels lining the brainstorming box, while more intimate areas are outfitted with organic elements such as timber panels and an existing brick wall. “It is rare to find minimalistic design projects in China, let alone a city like Guangzhou,” Luk notes. “This project stands out because it creates a bold contrast with the existing context.”
Bolstering the refreshing, relaxing atmosphere, Scandinavian-style furniture adorns the café, evoking clean and simple lines and soft colors against lacquered white wood tables. “The contemporary design injected energy and value to the local community,” adds Luk, who hopes there will be more design-oriented restoration projects in Guangzhou, “a city that is well-known for its production factories, but not for its design sensibilities.”