Behind the traditional façade, here’s what a Chinese speakeasy looks like

Zhuji, China – The Changnongtang shopping street in Zhuji is lined with contemporary tea shops and casual dining spots, hidden behind the façade of traditional Chinese storefronts. One of those tenants, though, excels in contrast: behind the open traditionalism of the inclined roof and the wood brackets of the Bar JI lies a series of dark arcades. ‘We wanted people to experience a wonderful space jump from the outside to the first room,’ explained Yongpeng Liu, one of the Daylab Studio architects behind the project.

Once they enter, patrons encounter four distinct lounging spaces: the White Gallery, the Black Arcade, the Blue Bar and the Red Bar.

To create the White Gallery, the Shanghai-based design team added a perforated-plate screen to the windows in the façade, as a way to strengthen the Zen-based concept. But then, the underground Black Arcade engulfs the light all of a sudden, creating a speakeasy within a speakeasy – yes, the designers were inspired by the US Prohibition Period.

From there, the rooms bifurcate into a Blue Bar, which serves cocktails within a sea of stainless steel, cement, terrazzo and polycarbonate panels, and a Red Bar, dedicated solely to whisky. Where the Blue side strives for visual simplicity, its crimson-coloured twin uses brass and neon to go for a more delicate effect. What’s more: while Blue is available to anyone, only pre-approved guests can visit Red – so it becomes a speakeasy within a speakeasy within a speakeasy.

‘For us, this is like a movie in real life, a film transformed into a spatial sequence,’ added Liu. ‘Design elements are no longer just needed to satisfy function or creating an atmosphere, but also to lay the groundwork for the next space.’

Location Changlongtang Commercial Pedestrian Street No.19, Zhuji

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