In Hangzhou, China, Ya Space is a furniture exhibition space by Li Wenqiang/PIG Design featuring Memphis furniture as the main exhibit. The project name refers to the nickname of Memphis City in China (‘Cliff City – or ‘Ya’ in the Chinese language) but also conveys the surprising feeling and unexpected sensory experience Memphis furniture brings out in people.
The Memphis Group is an Italian design and architecture group founded by Ettore Sottsass in the 1980s. As a young group of international designers, the Memphis Group advocated unrestricted creative exploration and has become the synonym of ‘alternative classical style’ in the modern design field. Its furniture features peculiar forms, bright colours and a design style liberated from minimalism and pragmatism.
Representative elements of the Memphis style such as geometric shapes and free composition are elements found throughout this project. The designers hoped to go beyond Memphis’ extreme emphasis on visual effects with enhanced textures and more sustainable concepts.
The façade of the building is finished with corrugated stainless steel sheets based on the design concept of a ‘cliff.’ During construction, the design team worked intensively with the edging and connection details of the corrugation sheets to ensure a holistic, clean effect.
The entrance to the space is marked by a large exclamation point, guiding visitors to explore an unknown world. From here, the interior space comprises two floors. The first floor provides an unconventional experience and spatial rhythm with a unique combination of geometries. A foyer features irregular stairs paved with black stone pieces and building block game-like scenes. Suspended from the ceiling, circular light boxes cast and diffuse light, creating a surreal floating atmosphere.
An array of cylinders form the bar counter and several independent metal installations make up the handrails of the staircase. Ordinary items here become a stage for display and experience. Many of the structures utilize the same materials of the wall, thus making them seem like objects that ‘grow’ from the space.
The entirety of the second floor is used for exhibitions. Views are framed in complex ways, allowing visitors different experiences if they, for instance, stand on tiptoe or bend down. The simple yet subtle arrangement of structures produces a playfulness within the space. The structures adopt the same finishes as the floor here, as if they are ‘growing’ from the floor. The design of the display is based on the concept of framed views, cutting and recombining to bring infinite visual experiences and possibilities.