Sacred space, clouds and milk chocolate: meet Wutopia Lab’s Shanghai pavilion

Wutopia Lab draws on dreams, clouds and milk chocolate in its latest creation, an architectural pavilion on the outskirts of Shanghai; meet the Shrine of Everyman

looking straight through the Shrine of Everyman by Chinese architects Wutopia Lab
Shrine of Everyman, designed by architects Wutopia Lab
(Image credit: CreatAR Images)

An abandoned pump house outside Shanghai has been transformed into an architectural pavilion with a nod to the sacred, courtesy of Chinese architecture studio Wutopia Lab. The project, created at an idyllic spot within the Dongtanyuan's Qian Shao Farm, belonging to food and beverage multinational the Bright Food Group, is titled Shrine of Everyman, and reimagines a neglected piece of industrial architecture into an exploration of sacred space – an ethereal folly that invites the visitor in, as if in a dream.

The project’s brief outlined a rest stop for visitors and passers-by. The architects applied their signature flair and imagination – which has previously led to designs such as imaginative bookstores for Tianya Books and beautifully geometric exhibition centres, such as the The Aluminium Mountain – to their architectural solution, resulting in a reflective, cloud-like structure full of curves and mirrors. The pavilion, made of 13 layers of translucent polycarbonate panels, sits on a semi-circular shallow pool, carefully and delicately suspended just above the river. 

hero nighttime exterior of Shrine of Everyman by Wutopia Lab in China

(Image credit: CreatAR Images)

Inspiration came from chocolate – one of their client’s key products. ‘One of the key charms of traditional Chinese culture is that everyday places can be elevated into sacred spaces through the construction of shared memories,' says Wutopia Lab's lead architect Yu Ting. ‘That's when the chocolate came to my mind. Milk chocolate, reinvented by Shanghai's food industry (including the predecessor of Bright Food Group) during a time of material scarcity, was a boon to the Chinese people of that period and was once an integral part of Shanghai's culinary memory.

‘I decided to use milk chocolate as the theme of the pump room to awaken memories of ordinary people who were temporarily forgotten,’ he continues, ‘thus turning an abandoned facility into a sacred space for ordinary people – Shrine of Everyman.’

Reflecting this thinking in the small, 35 sq m structure, the architects created the shallow pool in a deep brown colour, while the structure above it is white – symbolising, respectively, chocolate and milk. Stepping inside, the visitor is drawn into a dream-like landscape, where they can explore, rest, or take in the views of the natural setting and Shanghai cityscape beyond.

detail inside the Shrine of everyman, a take on sacred space designed by Wutopia Lab

(Image credit: CreatAR Images)

delicate side view Shrine of everyman by Wutopia Lab

(Image credit: CreatAR Images)

mesmerising curves at Shrine of Everyman by Wutopia Lab in China

(Image credit: CreatAR Images)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

With contributions from