At this converted Shanghai factory, Francesco Gatti effected a constructivist revolution
Josephine Minutillo -- Interior Design, 10/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Rarely showcases for architecture, most factories are as basic as can be: wide-open spaces, ample windows, unfinished floors, exposed structure. In one such Shanghai building, recently converted by 3 Gatti Architecture Studio into the office of a Milan-based marketing firm, Italia Servizi, the pure forms and neutral colors remain intact. But there's one big exception. Referred to as simply the Red Object, this crimson, faceted 16-foot-high structure is a study in opposites.
It stands in the center of the double-height ground level's glossy white epoxy floor, in a void between a mezzanine and a host of concrete structural columns. "The rectilinearity of the parapet and columns is a total contrast to the fractured, random form of the Red Object," Francesco Gatti says, adding that he sees it as "an enormous meteorite floating in a metaphysical space." More literally, the downstairs contains a kitchen and meeting rooms. The upstairs, accessible via a bridge from the mezzanine, serves as a large conference room.
Gatti initially developed the volume through quick sketches and paper models, then designed the final structure using a 3-D computer program. "This allowed us to 'cut' as if we were doing a real sculpture—only with much more control and the possibility to rethink the shape," he explains. Construction was decidedly less high-tech. First came a concrete-and-brick core. Around it, he built a frame of plywood cradles to support the skin of painted plasterboard that would give the Red Object its color and form. Clearly visible to passersby, it's a brand-identity maneuver worthy of the most sophisticated marketing firm.