Designing an Incubator in Shanghai

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Chair Of The Month

Project name: Dutch Design Workspace
Date of completion: 2010
Project location: Shanghai
Building area: 514 m2
Materials: Epoxy floor, recycled car tires for meeting boxes, reclaimed plastic for the outdoor furniture, Office chairs by Haworth, sustainable carpet by Desso
Design: Lu Jinni (Studio HUM) in cooperation with Giel Groothuis
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Industrial heritage

The project is located in a renovated warehouse in the center of Shanghai. It was formerly used for assembly of electric switch boxes.

After it was abandoned by the factory work forces, we converted the building to make it suitable for modern office use. The spacious third floor is accessed by the original freight elevator, and we designed an open-plan interior to house an incubator for creative companies and startups in China.

Dutch Design Workspace
Dutch Design Workspace


Interactive environment

One of the requirements of this innovative workspace was to facilitate interaction among its users. The inhabitants of the space are young entrepreneurs who join this business community to share resources and learn form each other’s experiences.

To stimulate interaction and communication in the space, we added no dividing walls. Instead, the open layout is simply divided by several large volumes that stand free in the space. These box-shaped volumes house the central facilities – a printer room, dining area, coffee bar, and server room.

Dutch Design Workspace - open layout
Dutch Design Workspace – open layout

To enhance the acoustics inside the open-work environment, we covered the boxes in rubber tiles made of recycled car tires that help absorb noise.


Informative entrance

We opened up the front entrance of the space by using large glass panels. This enables visitors to take a sneak peek at the interior and the creative activity going on inside.

Two glass boxes that house the larger meeting rooms flank the entrance. All doors are made of welded steel frames to match the existing steel frames of the renovated warehouse.

Dutch Design Workspace - entrance
Dutch Design Workspace – entrance

The volume facing the entrance houses an information display, bookshelves, and a large touch screen. Visitors can browse these features while waiting for an appointment.


Public spaces

In the center of the workspace is a public area that’s used for events or workshops. The space features a small podium fully clad in rubber tiles. The large, integrated steps can be used as seating during presentations. They also act as a staircase that leads to the adjacent outdoor space.

Dutch Design Workspace - rooftop terrace
Dutch Design Workspace – rooftop terrace

The spacious roof terrace is covered in the same rubber material as the boxes, and it has outdoor furniture made of recycled plastic. Together with movable waterproof lamps, it allows for flexible outdoor use while enjoying the fabulous views of the old and new city that surrounds it.


Customized furniture

The workstations inside the office area are custom made for this project. The minimalist desks have integrated drawers. A storage space in the top surface has electric and data outlets especially designed for laptop users.

Dutch Design Workspace - open office layout
Dutch Design Workspace – open office layout

The frame of the desk is made of welded steel to match the original steel frame windows of the factory. Inside one of the central volumes is a built-in timer that is suitable for quick meetings or chats. And the interiors of the meeting boxes are clad with fabric panels to provide suitable sound damping for conversation.


Neutral surroundings

The color scheme of the design is very neutral, mainly black and white. Only the meeting rooms have a strong color theme to clearly identify these spaces and give them more character.

The design foundation of the space ensures that the users, their products, and their creativity is most visible – a major emphasis of the incubator program overall.

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