Copper Blockhouse by Wutopia Lab

Copper Blockhouse

No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide. You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

In 2021, I was invited by my friend Qiye, to design a central building in the center of the creative industry park that I renovated for him. However, we are both spaced out those days as our wives are facing a similar dilemma. We are distracted, yet tried to take our minds off anxiety by working, but it was hard to fully concentrate.

Various possibilities of functions such as clubs and cafés were vetoed, as these ordinary functions cannot convince the two middle-aged men who were in panic. Eventually, we agreed on a multi-functional spiritual fortress as the central building.

I said to Qiye that we needed to justify our existence, which was impossible for successful commercial development to achieve. The museum is the church of the modern age, and it might settle our disturbed souls. Therefore, we used the museum as the base of the work.

Nautical machinery and ships are huge metal objects, therefore, I decided to build the building entirely of metal, and copper was chosen in the end. I am superstitious that metal shell is strong enough to protect our frightened souls.

I Want to Build a Copper Blockhouse the Way a Ship is Built
First you have to give up. First you have to know, not fear, know that someday you’re gonna die. It’s only after we’ve lost everyting that we’re free to do anyting. The form of the design is the original arched shed on the site. The building is an arch, and that’s it. It was the nautical machine factory that inspired me to build this fortress the way a ship is built.

Therefore, the construction of the building started with the keel, which was made of welded structural steel from 150mm to 220mm wide, covered by copper plates on both sides to form the internal and external facades. This is the origin of Full Metal Jacket. There’s a gleaming stainless-steel space in the fortress, the cabin of the ship. It funcions a café, as well as a stage, with a kitchen and a bathroom.

This is the only decoration of the Copper Blockhouse, symbolizing the sharpness of our souls, and the desires behind. The grass on the north side of the fortress was designed into a huge black wading pool. The Copper Blockhouse is then presented as a submarine, emerging from water surface like a shimmering whale, quietly, silently, rippling inside.

Despite Nowhere to go, this Building is Our Salvation
Every evening, I died and every evening, I was born again. Resurrected.
The rest of the park was designed by an excellent architect who gave the park a new look. However, I kept the newspaper wall on south side of the shed, the human security, the big tree, and the rockery.

I tried to remain some fragments of the memory of the site because I am increasingly reluctant to forget. Each building in the park is abundantly designed, and that’s why I preferred to keep the Copper Blockhouse simple. If the whole park is a partita, the Copper Blockhouse is a silent pause.

I ambushed a variety of possibilities in this “pause”, the fortress – exhibitions, performances, lectures, parties, a museum, even skateboarding activities. The café can be used as a stage if keep the gate towards the pool open. With the water surface drawing down, a glittering catwalk appears.

We once imagined here to be a dramatic show, but after the year of 2022, I’ve changed my mind. I hope there would be glorious fireworks, a choir performance on the water, singing about the pain and the hope. The name “Copper Blockhouse” is inspired by an air raid shelter reserved on the project site, a solid fortress. Source by Wutopia Lab.

  • Location: Pudong, Shanghai, China
  • Architect: Wutopia Lab
  • Chief architect: YU Ting
  • Project manager: MU Zhilin
  • Design team: MI Kejie, XU Nan, DAI Ruoyu
  • Construction drawing design firm: Shanghai Southeast United Engineering Design Co., Ltd
  • Lighting consultant: ZHANG Chenlu
  • Construction firm: Shanghai Qikufangyun Culture Technology Co., Ltd
  • Client: Shanghai Jiayun Investment Management Development Co., Ltd
  • Area: 405 sqm
  • Year: 2023.4
  • Photographs: CreatAR Images, Courtesy of Wutopia Lab