Mapoly Coffee in Shanghai Historical Museum

The Mapoly Coffee in Shanghai Historical Museum, designed by Wutopia Lab, features an abstract square design inspired by European small squares and a mixture of building components.

  • area / size 1,830 sqft
  • Year 2022
  • Location Shanghai, China,
  • Piazza in a room, the Mapoly Coffee in Shanghai Historical Museum, designed by Wutopia Lab will be opened in February 2023 on the first floor of the museum’s West Building.

    Coffee and Shanghai
    You can find Japanese, Korean, American, Taiwanese or Southeast Asian cafés, and you can even find a run-down but proudly maintained 1980s Taiwanese Japanese café on Yongkang Road, but there is no such one that represents Shanghai. However, Shanghai has a long history of cafés. In Eileen Chang’s essay “Double Voices” published in Tiandi magazine in 1945, she began by saying that when she went out with her friends, no matter what they did, they would always end up in a café. At that time, cafés in Shanghai were communal spaces in the city, serving beverages and snacks, but they could also be dancing halls, meeting rooms, libraries, information centers, and everyday social places.

    Coffee and Piazza
    The plan of café is shaped like a knife-handle. The bureau of cultural heritage requested to preserve the facade. In addition, the west building is the former stables of the horse racing hall, so the windows of the façade are all high and require frosted glass, which causes a lack of indoor lighting and exterior views.

    The café is sealed in the first floor of the west building. It suddenly occurred to me, if I regard the interior façade as exterior, isn’t the main space outdoor? Such exterized-interior could lift the seal.

    The interior space is actually hard to deal with since there is also a huge column in the center. The most public place in the urban typology would be those small squares in Europe. I decided to create a cheerful communal place, a Shanghai café, by combining various building components into an abstract square implanted in the interior of the first floor of the West Building, referring to A Pattern Language (Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, and Sara Ishikawa, 1977).

    A clip of the micro-city
    When customers entered from the South Huangpi Road arcade, they originally had to reach the café through a common vestibule and public restrooms. We decided to remove the three glass doors and turn the vestibule into an ambiguous space, a porch echoing the colonnade of the indoor plaza. From there, we pushed open the doors and took a few steps up into the bar area of the café. The black bar area is the handle part of the “knife handle”, and the service space takes up the main area. We turn the aisle into an exhibition and casual seating area. On one side of the door is a take-out waiting area made of green handmade bricks and a small gallery in collaboration with the Shanghai Historical Museum, where you will be surprised to see take-out coffee being handed out from a hidden frame.

    At the end of the museum is a stainless-steel sliding door with a white colonnade behind it. The floor of the colonnade is elevated to level with the museum, so that the high windows would fit in the scale of a human being. From the colonnade, the steps lead people down to the white plaza. Looking back from the square, the black bar is nestled in the white colonnade, where people could have a seat to rest and drink while watching the comedy in the square. And the colonnade along the outer wall was filled with low sofas, a rewrite of my impressions from the hookah cafés of Istanbul. Sun shines through the smokes flowing in the colonnade. Being cozy, life is just like that.

    Mapoly Coffee, from the colonnade into the museum with exhibition halls and then walk to the square with colonnade, is a fragment of the miniature city I envision. Scaling up this ‘Piazza in a Room’, it is then my ideal city – Shanghai.

    Design: Wutopia Lab
    Design Team: Yu Ting, Sun Liran, Kuang Zhou, Pan Dali, Gao Bolong
    Design Development: Shanghai C-yu Space Design Co.
    Photography: CreatAR Images