Seductive, characterful but never taking itself too seriously. The story of The Middle House in Shanghai is one of duality. Designed and conceptualised by veteran Italian architect Piero Lissoni, our House is a framed by its fascinating contrasts - historic architecture and contemporary design, Italian influences and Shanghainese details, light and dark, bold and neutral, heaven and earth.
Set in the bustling Dazhongli neighbourhood, The Middle House is surrounded by skyscrapers and some of Shanghai’s last remaining traditional shikumen or ‘lane houses.’ These architectural forms and materials became inspiration for Lissoni who worked with local artisans to craft the historical elements that add texture and depth to his contemporary aesthetic of clean minimalist lines and streamlined silhouettes.
The result is a stunning love letter to Shanghainese craftmanship and Italian ingenuity that blends dark atmospheric colours with bold jewel-like tones for sublime visual and emotional impact.
Endlessly photographed, The Middle House is full of gorgeously composed visual set-pieces. These recognisable hotspots are even more impressive in person than they are in magazines and on social media – beautiful women posing against the striking black metal clad oak spiral staircase in the Residence building and broody creative types pictured gazing up at the dramatic 3,760 piece Venetian chandelier at the green tiled lobby entrance.
Beyond those iconic spots, every detail tells a story. Within the calming contemporary spaces are subtle nods to Chinese design and materials – the use of porcelain, ceramic, grey brick, bamboo and lacquered textures. Inside and out, traditional patterns recur through the use of lattice and glazed screens in the handsomely anointed rooms while aluminium louvers on the curved exterior façade are inspired by traditional Shanghainese slats and dark roof tiles. Playful Chinese art pieces keep the mood light like Shuhui Wang’s artwork featuring dumplings on an abacus.
Bamboo is a recurring motif throughout The Middle House. From the whispering bamboo forests in front of the property to MI XUN’s bamboo lined corridor and the handmade emerald-green tiles at the entrance to the lobby. Decorated with bamboo stalks, these glazed ceramic tiles are a visual feast for visitors and form a frame for Fabiano Zanchi’s dramatic oversized Venetian chandelier. A powerful symbol, bamboo represents not only the connection to Chinese tradition but growth and nature.
Lissoni matched his aesthetic ambitions with a passion for sustainability, making conscious choices of eco-friendly materials such as diatom mud walls and LED lighting. He went to great effort to source materials and work with craftspeople directly to ensure the integrity of the process.
Last but not least, The Middle House’s most beloved and playful design feature is Mr Goodnight, the thick tasselled cord that hangs beside every bed in the sleek guest rooms and acts as a master switch. Surprising, theatrical and indulgent, it single-handedly captures the heritage meets modernity, East meets West design duality of The Middle House. Just give it one gentle tug and lights out. Good night.
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