Atlatl hospitality hub

A retro-futuristic space for Shanghai restaurant

19 December 2020

Various Associates  transformed a 520-square-metre disused interior of Atlatl Innovation Cluster into a space that brings in tasty coffee, food, wine and the collision with creativity and innovation, and aims to provide an intimate and artistic "body energy station" to high-level researchers, resulting in a futuristic atmosphere.

Known as China's "Silicon Valley", Zhangjiang High-tech Park in Pudong, Shanghai integrates a wide spectrum of key cutting-edge industries such as biomedicine, integrated circuit and aerospace, and delivers knowledge about nature and society. Situated within the high-tech park, ATLATL Innovation Cluster is a R&D platform for life sciences. "Atlatl" is a Nahuatl word that means "spear thrower", which was invented by ancient hunters to maximize their hunting abilities. The word here implies the ancient traces of human innovation.

Considering special features of users and industries that the project serves, the client requested a futuristic spatial atmosphere. The definition of the notion about time is the key of the project: What's future? What's past? There are different understandings on "futuristic" at different times. In modern era, mankind's imagination of future has always been connected to mega images, such as universe, celestial bodies, and the trace of time.

As approaching the project, Various Associates utilized elements that are often associated with modern people's imagination of future, including circles, curves, dome ceiling and traces, to create more intuitive "futuristic" scenes and ambience in the space.



The storyline of the project is "Waiting Hall". The design team took the notion of "time" to measure future and convey the message of waiting for future from day to day. In everyday life, we wait for sunrise, sunset and routine activities such as work, dining and gathering, while waiting for "future" as well.

Various Associates tried to start from "summarizing the past", and then deduced a futuristic spatial design experiment.  As opposed to adopting a one-direction timeline, the design took "present" as the origin, which extends in two directions and connect past glories with the vision of future, thereby creating "retro-futuristic" scenes which cross time.
Geometric languages such as circle, curve and sphere are applied to interior structures, surfaces and furniture, echoing orbits of planets. By recreating mankind's initial imagined view of the universe, Various Associates produced a streamlined space filled with a comfortable and futuristic ambience.
Design and fashion are an endless cycle. The project design drew inspiration from aesthetic achievements and technology explosion in the 20th century. Various Associates reinterpreted "futuristic" from a broader perspective, so as to conduct a spatial design experiment based on logic rather than sheer speculations.


The space is dominated by a greyish green tone, which is a mixture of natural "green" hue and futuristic "grey" colour.  Surfaces of different shades, malleable materials, film-like expressions and geometric compositions result in a tactile space.

The ring "floating" in the atrium runs through the lower and upper areas.   From the atrium to water bar, restaurant area, bar area as well as semi-open and private sections, the space is laid out based on different functions and degrees of privacy. With a smooth circulation, the entire space is able to accommodate 200 people for dining, relaxing and socializing.  Various Associates incorporated the ideas of "waiting hall" and "countdown" into spatial scenes that rewind time, while also bringing in stories and creating spatial rhythms.


Photo: Shao Feng