The Brown Lights

Project Name: Remodeling of the facade and the courtyard, Fu He Hui (a fine dining vegetarian restaurant);
Location: Shanghai;
Year of Completion: 2014;
Material: Cement slabs, outdoor coatings, wood grain metal panels and UV printed laminated glass.

The design of the exterior is inspired by old-styled Chinese academies.
Wood grain panels hung vertically and perpendicular to the wall add a fresh dimension to the facade while meeting at once the needs for some reassuring bits of privacy and view from the perspective inside. Panes of glass in the mist pattern let through a tantalizing amount of light to welcome visitors as if to a nostalgic Chinese school where candles flicker to the turning of textbook pages. The courtyard is enclosed with a green fence and a row of bamboo trees, and in conjunction with the building, becomes a distinctive street attraction.

Before Remodeling

The project is located at Yu Yuan Road, a West Shanghai quarter that rose to fame in 1920s and now impresses with well-preserved architectural styles. The unremarkable breadth of the road is flanked with private villas, embowered in lush greenery and surrounded by residential blocks of humble sizes. A three-storied annex to an office building houses the restaurant, with two villa-turned classy dining establishments on both sides. Its retreating front leaves space for a small courtyard – a unique feature in the neighborhood. Standing outside the North-facing main facade is a towering sycamore tree silently relating stories of the wheeling seasons.

Night View after Remodeling

One of the design challenges is how to weave the cultural elements and stylistic characters of Yu Yuan Road around the thematic clue of “vegetarian”. All things considered, the decision is to create the atmosphere of a traditional Chinese academy.

Facade Rendering in Daylight

Zoomed-in Facade Rendering

The first step was demolishing the outer wall down to ground level and extending its height. To compensate for the lack of sunshine, the North-facing facade has a spatial dimension protruding from the flat surface. When the needs for privacy and view are factored in, the design comes to feature wood grain panels hung vertically and perpendicular to the wall like opened windows through which recitals of Chinese classics of yore are heard…

Detailed Rendering of the Facade (Left)
Real Scene of the Facade Viewed from Within (Right)

Tucked between the interior and exterior is a cavity in which a row of lamps is placed to provide fine-tunable lighting that accords with real conditions. On both sides of the protruding panels, floor-length glass panes printed with a special mist pattern give the lights a brown, tantalizing quality that smacks again of traditional Chinese academies. For the interior, translucent fabrics enfeeble the lights from the cavity to the effect that fills the room with a philosophical, ethereal air of tranquility.


Cross Section of the Courtyard and the Building

Plan of the Ground Floor, Inside and Outside

The sign “Fu He Hui” is set to the right of the entrance, not easily seen unless in close sight, in a state of withdrawal that strikes the designer as ideal for “vegetarian being”. While the file of bamboo trees in the courtyard keeps VIP rooms on the ground floor in relative secrecy, the green fence that envelopes the courtyard from the street hushes the city’s din as a natural separation. Together, the bamboo courtyard and the old-styled academy facade comprise an identifiable symbol for food lovers as well as a scenic attraction on Yu Yuan Road.