Single Person: A Gallery for One

A new space in China is challenging the connotations of a gallery, Single Person is an ethereal experience of a cave as you travel from the start to finish, captivating your senses of sound and sight. 

Supplied, Yiqing Gao

Single Person

Gone are the days of having to wait your turn to soak in the message behind an art piece, not to say that the Louvre isn't a delectable feast of artwork but a new gallery in China is challenging the norms of art viewing.

Single Person has been designed in a cave-like experience for the purpose of one person per entry, allowing you to walk through the experience carefully crafted by the architects of Offhand Practise and is located along the main road in Shanghai’s Xuhui district.

Offhand Practise is an interior architecture design practise that focuses on the relationship between space and people, aiming to create meaningful design between the two factors. 

The façade appears like something out of a cartoon such as the Flinstones, enhancing the concept of the cave-like appearance with a single curved entrance. With a minimalist approach, the words 'Single Person' in an intricate font design has been placed along the face of the facade.

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Single Person

Formerly inhabited by a 60 square-meter street dinner, Offhand Practise and their client decided that the narrow and long space would be more suitable for a gallery as opposed to a cafe or business as it is not suitable for a large number of furniture pieces. 

Aptly named Single Person for the narrow space - the gallery is home to a range of vintage houseware pieces. 

Single Person

Systematic and coherent design was the approach applied to Single Person. In order to enhance the narrow and long space, Offhand Practise divided the existing space into four rooms. 

'We did this to categorise different products with each area and integrate the client’s needs with a straightforward solution to develop a comprehensive plan,' explains Offhand Practise. 

Offhand Practise explains the adaption of the 'cave' concept and how it was integrated into the space. 

'A narrow space with light sources only at both ends, isn't this a cave? The word cave broke into our mind when first sought to define the space as a whole and because the space shares similar physicality with a cave. While we were verifying the concept, we realised that the cave is not an imposed concept  but manifested by the nature of the site itself.'

Single Person

'Once the overall concept cave was established, other design elements for this space that shares the same design language naturally fell into place. We researched the cave itself and cave related design, developed design details with functional requirement and the site's own specific conditions in mind,' added Offhand Practise. 

Single Person

Tackling the lack of natural light available in the gallery, the architecture practise tailored various solutions during the construction and design of Single Person. In order to allow light to filter through the space, opening on the walls was applied throughout the entire space. A row of small niches were implemented along the wall of the centre gallery to produce a candlelight ambience in the space. 

In addition, a peeking window has been punctured into the structure allowing a visual connection between the centre and side gallery. 

The design included a row of skylights to illuminate the exit and guide visitors out of the gallery.

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Single Person

'Under the cave concept, the skylight is given a great vertical depth to stimulate the way light penetrates through the thick cave walls. By controlling the way light enters, it magnified the experience of a cave,' said Offhand Practise. 

A second challenge was the existing spatial hierachy indicated int eh narrow and long space. The existing civil structure could not be changed, with this in mind Offhand Practise decided to take advantage of teh height difference between each space and highlight the depth and leveling of the cave. In orde to ehance the concept of depth, the flooring colour creates an infiltration between two areas. 

Single Person

Aside from utilising the height difference to indicate space, the designers at Offhand Practise applied the use of colour. By using different shades of colour is applied to enahnce the focus on depth. The first area of the gallery and side gallery has been painted in a white enamel.

The second area, the corridor gallery has been adorned wtiha an ochre and a darker shade while the exit gallery is coloured in sienna, the darkest shade from the pallette.

The use of earhty colours not only creates a sense of depth but also is a nod to the concept of a cave as the light is dimmed and the space is darkened the deeper you walk through the gallery. 

Aside from the use of colour, paint texture has been varied in each room to create a subtle constrast in a spatial experience. The façade paint is a result of  a pebble wash adding to the concept of a cave. 

The cabinet handles found in the gallery were carefully selected from a flea market in Berlin while the faucet features orginates from a brand called Jee-O. 

Single Person

'Single Person is a cooperative effort with our client. The maze niche of the corridor gallery is made directly out of the client's sketch including the irregular window in the centre of the gallery. As more oval shaped detailed were added to the space, we gradually changed all wall intersections details to create curves. Due to construction constraints, not everything was executed perfectly, but the intersection detail between walls and ceilings in the centre gallery are rather satisfying,' concludes Offhand Practise. 

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