When Thought and Consideration is Put into Design, Even a Public Washroom Becomes an Inspirational Space, Demonstrated by X-Living for Deji Plaza Phase

The theme of a Sanctuary Garden takes center stage in the design of this public washroom in a shopping mall in Nanjing, China

Says the lead designer of this project Li Xiang, “The washroom in a shopping mall is a public space open to everyone. It accommodates people in their busy urban life and provides them a space to take a break or re-organise themselves. During the design process, we didn’t particularly want to design it as a function only space, therefore, we suggested putting more emphasis on the design, so as to reflect humanistic care in unexpected corners of the shopping mall. That’s when we came up with the concept of Sanctuary Garden.”

The design team made use of the passages, planned the function division carefully, and integrated new functions which are often neglected as well, with the aspiration that this space could take care of people’s needs, no matter big or small. This resonates with how their client Deji opened the passageway connecting the subway for the convenience of commuters and since 2015, they established a "Lost Children Prevention System". Humanistic care like these examples are buried under the sense of ritual and aesthetics created by the design, and can be only noticed when they are being used.

The design team resonated how they felt this was such an interesting project. Due to the removal of the fences at the end of the construction, passers-by are able to take a glimpse of the inside. Therefore from a marketing perspective, social media posts about the space on the internet went viral even before the project was opened to the public. Li Xiang continues, “There are many things I want to express through the theme of the project, such as the challenges of integrating a traditional aesthetic mode, the re-examination of refined decoration and its connotation in the field of decorative aesthetics. But in the end, my only hope is that after stripping away the layer of mystery, this project will long exist, and become a sanctuary garden that is within the reach of every urban traveler.”

The concept of this project was drawn from the designer's tribute to the increasingly distant spring under the environmental crisis. Encompassing a green ecological art garden that jumps out of the concrete building, this awakens the garden buried deep in people's hearts. With the reorganization through design techniques, abstract geometry and lines that are inspired by flowers, plants and insects naturally become the decorative expression of the design theme aesthetics. They extend from the façade to the ground and the depths of the interior space, guiding people’s footsteps to explore inward. On both sides of the experience hall, the designer used green wallpaper to form the first skin of the interior, and then covered it with the curved grille as the second skin. Green plants growing from the cavity on both sides inject vitality into the indoor landscape. The symmetrical aesthetics of the array design and the exquisite and rich internal frame brings the art garden a palace-like temperament, while the ceremonial walk-in experience and rich layers in details further completes and sublimates the rich sensory feast brought by the experience hall.

Under the impact of the grand atmosphere, eye-catching creativeness continues to provide customers with constant surprises. The designer deconstructed the characteristics of butterflies and bees, and used them to create gorgeous chandeliers. At the same time, wall lamps that are inspired by flowers can be seen on both sides of the wall. At the end of the experience hall is the traffic point for the separation of men's and women's washrooms - the lounge, a group of large art sofas grow out of the space like a cluster of brightly blooming flowers. While its design falls in line with the theme, the sofa itself provides a convenient resting spot for the waiting visitors. The logo of the men's and women's washrooms is interestingly expressed with a "rose" and a "palm leaf". In the washroom, the washstand is inspired by the fountain in the garden and functionality is properly integrated by taking advantage of the water fountain’s shape and height difference. The designer continues to follow the same design strategy as the experience hall, using wood veneer and champagne-gold grilles as the double skin of the interior, emphasizing the sense of comfort and convenience of the space, and ensuring the unity of artistic style and control of the theme aesthetics. As such, when art is integrated with business, design tears a gap between reality and illusion, forming an artistic atmosphere which makes even a public washroom space become the extension of the spiritual garden.

Words: Emily Leung & Nikey Cheng
Photos: SFAP
Published on March 07, 2023