Superimpose Architecture creates subterranean conference centre based on Victorian shopping arcade

Interior image of work and meeting spaces at The Arcade

Superimpose Architecture used a traditional shopping-arcade typology to transform the dark basement of a commercial development in Hangzhou, China, into The Arcade conference centre.

Designed to appeal to a young audience, The Arcade is a subterranean space made up of a wide L-shaped corridor lined with meeting rooms, a cafe, a lobby and an auditorium.

Exterior image of The Arcade at night
The Arcade is a subterranean conference centre that was designed by Superimpose Architecture

Inserted between structural concrete columns, the spaces have white facades that resemble shop fronts.

When designing the centre, Rotterdam and Beijing-based Superimpose Architecture looked to the design of traditional shopping arcades that were popular in Europe from the 18th to the 20th century.

Interior image of different work spaces at the conference centre
Wide L-shaped corridors are lined with work and social facilities

The Victorian arcades typically connected two busy streets and were lined on both sides with shops sitting under a series of arches supported by a colonnade.

Lit by daylight funnelled in through glass skylights, the shopping arcades served as protected indoor retail environments and social gathering spaces.

To combat the lack of natural light in The Arcade conference centre, Superimpose Architecture inserted two long linear “floating” acrylic ceiling boxes that mimic the colour and intensity of natural daylight along the ceiling of its two main corridors.

“The light boxes have an immediate visual impact in the basement and serve as a clear indicator for circulation,” said Superimpose Architecture. “The two axes can also be used as exhibition space.”

Each conference room was given a distinct character through the use of different colours, light fixtures and materials.

Interior image of an auditorium with red carpet
Acrylic ceiling boxes mimic natural daylight

The seating in the large auditorium is organised in a semi-circle that runs the entire length of the space to create a forum-like setting.

Linear light boxes follow the seating arrangement, while wooden louvres and red carpet help to improve acoustics and add warmth. The facade of the auditorium can be fully opened, allowing the room to expand and become part of the entrance area for events.

Other subterranean office interiors include this silver-coloured office extension in Munich and an office in London with a “speak-easy style” basement.

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