E Studio uses light as a design material, turning an interior into a beacon for gamers around the globe.

More than 200 million people around the world have downloaded Onmyoji, a turn-based fantasy strategy game developed by NetEase. Set during the Heian period, the story follows an onmyoji, or ghost, who bridges the human and spirit worlds, on a quest for his lost memories. As the company’s first offline theme store, the 385-sq-m restaurant, exhibition space and flagship had to represent beloved historical game elements within a wholly modern interior. The design included a renovation that would create a series of ‘experience spaces’ – a café, bar, retail floor and showroom – that entertain and engage young people with both the game and other gamers. 

The polycarbonate facades of the layered building turn it into a luminous lantern. Distinct from its wooded surroundings and representing parts of the game’s narrative, the building serves as a filter, producing various visual effects through the manipulation of light. The Courtyard of the Onmyojis was inspired by karesansui, the Japanese rock garden. Its plan starts with a rippling pattern that spreads outward, so that the layout of the courtyard ripples and creases upward in the form of stairs to reach the upper level. At night, via carefully controlled illumination, the first floor cafe transforms into a bar. During the day, however, sunlight cascading through the surrounding trees onto the polycarbonate walls bathes the space in a filigree of light and shadows.

This project is featured in our latest book, Learning From China. Get your copy here.