At the end of the 19th century, Zhang Yuan, the most famous garden of Shanghai, developed into one of the earliest public and commercial spaces in modern China, exemplifying and leading the emergence of a new Chinese urban lifestyle.

蓝瓶咖啡张园店模型 Blue Bottle Coffee Zhangyuan model


In 2022, as Zhang Yuan reopens to the public after a complete rehabilitation of its historic buildings, Neri&Hu was commissioned by Blue Bottle to create a retail space in one of the old Shikumen typology residences. Coffee initiates a dialogue between Shanghai’s rich history and the contemporary urban social realm.

▲入口视角 Entry view


Amidst the architectural relics of Zhang Yuan, where the city’s collective memory resides, one could envision this scene described by Chinese writer Mu Xin – like tiny crabs scuttling in and out of their sandy shelters, people scatter about in the shadowy lanes of Shanghai at sunset.

▲倚窗而坐,娓娓而谈 Leisurely social moments along the windows and walls


Within this vast network of alleys, people would go about in their daily hustle and bustle, but the Shanghainese could always appreciate a moment of leisure. Neri&Hu hopes to capture the spirit of the local urban fabric and weave a narrative journey for both locals and visitors to appreciate.

▲室内中央的屋舍结构 Primitive shelter erected in the center of the space


Due to historic preservation guidelines, the existing brick walls, doors, and windows of the original architectural fa?ades and atriums are left untouched, and become a continuous backdrop for the insertion of new design elements.

▲从天井步入屋舍 Stepping from the atrium to the primitive shelter


A primitive shelter, symbolizing a return to the origin of architecture, is erected in the center of the space; it is where the coffee is prepared and served, and forms the visual and circulatory focal point of the project.

▲室内里弄 Alley-like space within the building


Along the exterior wall of the old building, an elongated space connects the main street to the atriums. This alley-like space within the building accommodates several benches and small tables against the windows and walls, a nod to the leisurely social moments of life in the Shikumen.

▲材料研究 Material research


To contrast with the heavy palette of the existing architecture, Neri&Hu meticulously studied the structure and its tectonic joinery, to make it as light as possible. The roof structure is built with brushed stainless steel while the roof surface is made of perforated and bent steel, materials that reflect the surroundings in a subtle and fuzzy manner.

▲屋舍结构细节 Details of the roof structure

▲上海里弄生活的延伸 Details inspired by the alley life in Shanghai


Neri&Hu was also inspired by the informal construction and simple attachments that people once used to extend their private spaces into the alley, the existing structural columns are thus commandeered with added metal rods and small platforms to function as light rails, side tables, benches, and object displays.

▲新旧并置 The clash of juxtaposing old and new


Other than brand furniture, the project features a selection of repurposed traditional old furniture, on which the traces of time bestow a sense of warmth and familiarity, merging old and new, Blue Bottle and Shanghai.
















Project Information——

Project Name:Primitive Shelter Blue Bottle Zhang Yuan Cafe

Site Address:W5-1A, 240 North Maoming Road, Jing’an district, Shanghai, China

Completion:November, 2022

Client:Blue Bottle Coffee

Project Type:Interior


Gross area:175 sqm

Partners-in-charge:Lyndon Neri, Rossana Hu

Associate-in-charge:Qiucheng Li

Design team:Jiaxin Zhang, Xi Chen, Peizheng Zou, Shangyun Zhou, Greg Wu, Luna Hong

Interior design:Neri&Hu Design and Research Office

FF&E design and procurement:Design Republic

General contractor:Blue Peak Image Producing Co.,Ltd