28 Sep 2020 • Lauren Grace Morris
What kind of space will help innovators give shape to the future of cities? Just take a look at Shenzhen’s C Future Lab
Designed by QUAD Studio in collaboration with a range of high-profile creators, the multipurpose innovation platform manifests a future with technology, art and nature in alignment.
Established by real estate company Centralcon, C Future Lab is a forward-looking innovation platform in Shenzhen. The experimental lab, now a showcase of an initiative entitled C Future City, brings together inventive minds from all over the world to explore what the city of tomorrow will look like. Its high-tech 2,000-sq-m grounds – combining an art gallery, co-working space, garden, discussion forum and social gathering area – were conducted by QUAD studio. The practice collaborated with the likes of teamLab, Motse, Ross Lovegrove, Nagami, RFR, Patrick Blanc and Tungsten Studio to bring the interiors to life with digital art, custom sculptures, green installations and ambient lighting.
While the construction of C Future Lab was delayed for two months due to the pandemic, it was able to officially open its doors in July. A celebration of technology, art and nature, the interiors are devised to take visitors through an experiential journey – one that the designers hope is fueled by curiosity and anticipation to culminate in collective discussion and inspiration. ‘We designed the space so that its structure will allow for future evolution – the content will be constantly changing,’ explains Kelvin Chu, founding partner of QUAD. ‘What we see now is only Version 1.0 of the C Future Lab.’
The visitor journey begins through the Time Passage, which displays information about Shenzhen’s evolution as a city through time. One is then led to The Cell – or, in more conventional speak, the reception area – centred on a sinuous immersive 3D-printed sculpture QUAD worked with Welsh artist and industrial designer Ross Lovegrove to create. Here, the lighting scheme and and the projection on the sculpture interacts with the visitors’ hand movements when they arrive in the lab. The heart of C Future Lab is the Creative Hub, a multifunctional 100-seat theatre fitted with geometric furnishings and fixture for events and lectures. When there is no programming taking place projections by Motse take an audience through an engaging panoramic tour of Shenzhen’s urban evolution from a village to the futuristic city of today.
While it partially departs from the futuristic aesthetic of the first areas, the Hanging Garden balances its natural centrepiece with sleek elements. French botanist Patrick Blanc and QUAD collaborated on an arresting planted ribbon which snakes through the interior garden, penetrating the glass which faces toward another green space outside – the wayfinding here is not traditional routing, but a grounded fishpond. Contrasting this biological oasis is the Info Labyrinth, a digital exhibition space defined by 160 monitors – each controlled by a mini computer – that broadcast the multiple facets of QUAD’s vision for the C Future City.
It’s the last two stops in the journey – the Studio and Forum – which invite the continued social interaction driving C Future Lab. The Studio houses a café, bar, co-working spaces and private meeting areas, its core a sculptural 3D-printed table for co-working, dining and drinking by Lovegrove and QUAD. In the Forum – with a projection screen that wraps around a centre stage – small group presentations and discussions for up to 20 people can be held. Cutting-edge sensors link the speaker and their presentation through the presenter’s gestures.
‘We are entering into a new age where the word “future” is often brought up and discussed,’ says Chu. ‘Technology has progressed to a stage where it is greatly affecting the way we live, work and play: products like mobile phones, automobiles, robots have all moved on and become smarter than before, so what about architecture? Maybe we have been too used to the environments we live in. As architects, we should be questioning how spaces can be designed with the influence of technology, art and nature. Spatial design in the future should not be all about technology as in a sci-fi movie – there are ways to integrate art and nature in new perspectives, and this is what drives us to innovate.’