Jing’an Prime Land: Tradition & History in Shanghai

The works of Toronto-based Mason Studio, led by partners Stanley Sun and Ashley Rumsey, are scattered across almost every continent. Sleek vegan eateries, posh hotels, multi-unit residences; theirs is a vast portfolio that spans the hospitality, retail, and residential sectors, with the occasional installation piece that allows the artistic duo to flex their extensive training and appetite for cross-disciplinary work. Sun is specifically interested in the “science of place and the effect of environmental changes on human physiological response”; Rumsey has a “distinguished ability to catalyze cross-disciplinary relationships to increase the success of a project.” A perusal of their past projects shines a light on the symbiotic success of their partnership.

A recent project transported those combined talents from the home base of their bustling Canadian metropolis to a far more populous city across the ocean: Shanghai, China.

The Jing’an Prime Land project is a collection of multi-generational family dwellings. These townhomes were a new construction in a district steeped in history and tradition. And we mean steeped in history; the namesake temple of the Jing’an district is over two thousand years old. The ancient, golden-roofed structure remains a prominent fixture of the community, even as signs of modernity creep up around it on all sides — billboards, power lines, high rises.

This project seeks to veer from the growing trend of high-rise condominiums in the area, offering an alternative typology that nods to the tradition of the region by way of luxurious details in the ornamentation and decoration of each single-level residential unit. According to a recent press release from v2com, a minimal design approach was applied to express how essentialism has redefined luxury within the traditional urban context of Shanghai over time.

Located in the heart of the culturally-rich district, the interiors are a professed “pure and minimal expression of extravagance.” Designed to last for generations, emphasis was placed on natural light, privacy via personal outdoor space, and high-quality finishes that showcase a lasting craftsmanship.

Primary materials in the interior were restricted to wood, marble, and hand-troweled plaster. This limited choice was a deliberate way to maintain quality control and execute the finely detailed vision of Mason Studio. Ornamentation is not applied but sought organically; the materials are given room to shine, their inherent beauty and integrity at front and centre.

Natural lighting is key throughout each space, but so is artificial lighting. It is placed strategically in a manner that highlights architectural and interior finishes while remaining functional.

Two different townhouses have been designed to suit the needs of families at various stages. The property on the ground floor, or Townhouse A, was created with a young family in mind. Its calm, orderly atmosphere serves as a stark juxtaposition to the noise and haste of the exterior world. The layout is meant to create a harmonious space for family living, enforced by such details as a pale colour palette and soft material textures (with occasional, but subtle, patterning).

An open-concept layout was chosen for the kitchen, dining area, and living room, to reinforce the communal nature of activities like cooking, eating, and gathering. Materials chosen for these spaces were natural stone and light oak wood. A central staircase leads to another communal space, an entertainment area, where an indoor garden flooded with daylight brings a breath of nature to the urban dwelling. Follow the marble-clad staircase upwards and you’ll find three bedrooms and bathrooms, affording each family member plenty of privacy. Lovers of the Marie Kondo trend will love the incorporation of retail design techniques that allow beloved personal possessions to be showcased; it’s a tasteful, tidy way to celebrate the things that bring joy.

The upper property, or Townhouse B, is one designed for a mature family. Its layout is one created for a lifestyle of social functions and entertaining friends and extended family. The palette of this unit’s living and dining area is high-contrast and saturated, making bold use of open-grain oak wood panels and natural marble slabs on the walls and floors. A central staircase is adorned with custom artwork and integrated lighting to add a sense of drama and life to the narrow space. At the top, residents have access to a large, private sky terrace.

Both townhouses offer a serene, functional home for families seeking contemporary living in a district rich with antiquity.

To see more projects by Mason Studio, check out their website. Eager for more Chinese architecture? Check out this stunning library.