Dream within a dream – Surreal architecture in China

Wutopia Lab was invited by Shanghai Huijian to design a welcoming stage in front of the sales center in Huzhou.

In China, no matter where you are, as long as you live in a so-called “modern city”, you can find the drastic similarity among all of them, that they all “seem” new, but with no character, no history, no center and no planning.

People are living in similar houses that either are “Neo-Classical” or have a “New Art Deco” façade led by local developers. Every one actually lives very differently. However, now our distinctive lives are all covered by those generic but flashy city masks.

The project of Yu Ting is the entrance of the sales center in Huzhou

Yu Ting was invited to design the interior of an apartment in a Reality TV Show called Dream Home. He took off every wall he could take from the apartment, which means that he changed it from a three-bedroom to a one-bedroom apartment. This move brought Yu Ting criticism from all over the internet. That was one of his experiments: to change the way people live normally.

Since the client generously gave Yu Ting the freedom to design this stage, Yu ting could not let this chance go. He wants to create this new space, later named White Upland, that is a combination of architecture, landscape, interior, lighting, art installation, and the most personal moments we have in our lives, memories, and emotions.

He made this welcoming stage of a sales center a communal place, a surreal garden where people around this neighborhood, as well as people from Huzhou could come to enjoy. This is his manifesto of an anti-generic city.

The space is called White Upland and combines architecture, design, art installations and landscape design

Design can be rather subjective

In White Upland, Yu Ting started from his own experience and decided to make ‘dream’ as the design principle. Instead of changing the façade of the sales center, he chose to cover it with his design. While the original sales center remains in its most normal condition, it becomes the most powerful contrast to this distinctive, history-making White Upland. Subjectivity is also anti-generic. 

Why dream? Life is a series of obstacles and challenges. Only within the storm, people could deeply perceive the most important meaning of life. Therefore, if there is one place, where people could escape from reality, forget the pain and pressure that time brings us physically and mentally, it must be in the dreams. Yes, people need daydreams, and daydreaming is anti-generic.

People will feel like being in the Alice in wonderland tale

Building an anti-generic dream with generic materials

The client wanted this garden to showcase the prefabrication technologies in this project. Yu Ting chose a very generic material, steel. Last time, in the Models in Model project, he managed to create a semi-transparent screen from a continuous steel column. This time, to achieve the same result, he used 529 six-meter-high steel columns to mark the boundary of White Upland, as well as resolve the façade of the sales center.

The main narrative of White Upland was inspired by Yu Ting’s daughter, Tangtang’s dream. The Forest is one of the most frequent elements in Tangtang’s dream. Yu Ting used 108 white steel columns in three sizes to form this abstract forest. To follow the visitors’ circulation, he made different landscapes, such as caves, hills, streams, rocks, highlands, waterfalls, and theatres in the woods. He referenced Rene Magritte’s painting for the abstract landscapes.

He also used facilities to create different environments, the space has a starry sky, cloudy sky, sunrise, fog, sounds and smells from nature, and a bonfire. Making them white makes all of them surreal. Eventually, Yu Ting succeeded in using the most generic materials and manipulations to build an exuberant anti-genetic dream-land, a 3300 m2 White Upland using 106 tons of steel.

Yu Ting shaped generic materials to built this exuberant dream-land

White Upland is a hyper-text mosaiced with many life fragments

White Upland creates a mega architecture hyper-text, mosaiced with a lot of desires, emotions, memories and hopes in our lives.

You can see the Trojan horse under the clouds. This prop, which represents the innocence of an adult child, has repeatedly appeared in Yu Ting’s series of dream designs. You can also see swings, colorful bunkers, and stars. These fragments, which once flashed in life, are re-fined and mosaiced into White Upland. Of course, if that’s all, it’s just flattery. Life is much more than that.

Yu Ting is particularly fond of the fountain in Shanghai’s Jing’an Kerry Center. It is not only a landscape but also a playground for children to interact with, and a meet-point for people to socialize. So on the plaza hidden in the forest, he set up a fountain of 117 nozzles. Opposite the fountain is a huge covered theater, where bands can perform in the summer.

These two places make up the social life scene of family and friends. The bonfire in the middle of the forest is a red cone woven by the with 5954 meters of fluorescent carbon fiber. It is a solid flame that one can enter. In the white forest, on the white hills, at the center of White Upland, people can find safety and warmth, or even love. In this way, the unrealistic White Upland actually reflects a real-life text.

With the pandemic going on and the closing of clubs, a lot of people have lost their weekly escape. Yet, Fabio Colturri and EYS SYE found a way to bring you back there.

Aside from the fairytale it’s the perfect place for social gathering

White Upland mosaiced in symbolism, metaphors, history, myths and signs

At the entrance of White Upland, there is an ink garden surrounded by 16 red maple trees. The 50 tons of black mountain stones are like ink, which in the white dream implies a trace of local history, geography, and culture of the south of the Yangtze River.

Going through the Ink Garden, before entering the forest that suggests the future, you will encounter the White Upland’s eye, a dark blue but cool-lighted cave. At this moment when you pause in the “eye”, you will understand that no matter how much uncertainty life has, at least this moment is firm and happy, it is hope

In White Upland, you can shrink like Alice in Wonderland. The fragile clover becomes a towering tree to form a forest. Through this transformation, you can recognize your body and strengthen it.

From the top, the towering trees can create body-like shapes

White Upland can also be mosaiced with symbols representing different scenes on the ground. These abstract signs are actually words specially designed for this steel garden. They help you understand the language of dreams and read it more thoroughly.

Time slows down in White Upland. With our world defined by preciseness, everyone has a sense of urgency and anxiety about the inevitable end. The real significance of the time that White Upland is slowed down and becomes apparent when we linger in our recurring dreams.

Here you can not only appreciate the beauty of subtle moments but also find satisfaction in re-thinking the meaning of life. Reincarnation is a concept of time that contemporary people no longer believe. However, the world behind us has become the next stage of interaction. This concept of time contributes to the most important life experience of Chinese people’s vitality.

The fil rouge of the project is the concept of life cycle which is a very important topic in Chinese culture

The footprint of White Upland is an infinite symbol. Dreams can be infinite. So is hope. It’s important for people to understand that something temporary, like White Upland, is created just for the pleasure or happiness of seeing an idea come true.

People are even willing to take time to create buildings and places that are basically useless. Transitory, fleeting, yet paradoxical, has a more permanent meaning in White Upland. It’s not just a dream, it’s actually a sacred space for a better life.

When the continuous lampposts of the White Upland border are lit in the night, anyone will immediately understand that this place is full of metaphors and symbolic meanings that are more profound than the form of its architecture.

If you don’t want to wake up from this dreamlike experience yet, treat yourself with the project of Limelight Studio.

This is also considered a sacred place for a better life thanks to the metaphors and symbolic meanings scattered through the architecture

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