Chongqing Mountain & City sales office reception, China

Designers broke with accepted Chinese design principles of feng shui to create a startlingly different property sales office, inspired by the harsh mountains and often rain-lashed landscape that surround the location

Client: Shanghai Forte Land Co

Design: One Plus Partnership

Size:1,600 sq m

Completion time: 9 months


Having built its economy on manufacturing, China is now becoming a world leader in creativity too. From animation to architecture, the country's creative industries have grown exponentially over the past few years, and with that have come some world-class interior design projects.

Located on the eastern side of Chongqing, a major city in the country's South West, the sales office of real estate company Chongqing Mountain & City is just one of many projects that prove China can create as well as make.

The design by Hong Kong-based One Plus Partnership takes its cue from the awesome mountains and valleys that surround the city, with a dramatic reception space inspired by mountains and rain.

A faceted wall made of marble triangles echo the sharp angles of the mountains, while strips of LED lighting, which hang at right angles from the ceiling, evoke the stair-rod rain which often forms a backdrop to the area's breathtaking scenery.

Other walls are made of strips of marble which have been laid one on top of the other, an idea which references the way geological landscapes are formed from layers of rock. The effect is undeniably dramatic, but as One Plus Partnership's design directors Ajax Law and Virginia Lung explain, it was not easy to achieve. 'To build the mountain scene, we piled up the linear marble strips to form irregular shapes. We had to handle the irregular shapes of the slanted walls and the marble floor pattern carefully, and as this is difficult to present to the client in three-dimensional design or drawings, we built a model to study the irregular shapes.' A floor of grey marble laid in a triangular pattern also evokes the sharp angles of rock formations.

Knowing that bought-in furniture would spoil the natural effect, One Plus Partnership designed a series of angular reception counters, made of stainless steel in a 'gold-champagne' hue. These pieces have been left intentionally stark, with no decoration at all. Law and Lung say stainless steel was chosen to create a contrast to the stone that dominates the rest of the space and, because it reflects the LED lighting, to add to the effect.

Even the staircases, which connect the reception area to the work floors above, are designed to feel like caves that might have been carved out naturally by some raging prehistoric river.

For One Plus Partnership this is the latest in a series of successful projects for developer Shanghai Forte Land Co, and with each completed project the bond of trust between designer and client has grown, say Law and Lung.

'As we have worked with the client on other projects their confidence in our abilities has grown, and with that we have been given more and more freedom in terms of design,' say the designers. 'The trust between client and designer, and the high degree of acceptance from the client on this project, meant we were able to reach a better outcome and more innovative design.'

This confidence of client in designer seems to be this project's key to the success; a more wary client might have asked for something softer and less uncompromising. Law and Lung agree: 'Since the client is confident in our abilities they did not ask us to make the space similar to other property sales offices.

'And that freedom meant we could apply a more artistic design to differentiate this sales office from others. We wanted to make it look more like a museum or even a work of art than the reception of a typical sales office.'

The design is also highly unusual in China in that its irregular features fly in the face of the harmonious design principles of feng shui, say the designers: 'Irregular shapes and sharp corners are seldom accepted and applied in Chinese design because of feng shui, and that makes this project doubly unusual.'

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