The Surrealist Architecture Firm That’s Turning Heads in China

The immersive and whimsical creations of X+Living leave us in wonder...

The imaginative work of architecture firm X+Living looks like something out of Willy Wonka or a Wes Anderson film – if it was set in outer space.

It’s rare we come across commercial spaces that are this playful, this utterly wonderful and this fun. Each space leaves us in wonder, each project makes us hungry to see more, as each project is unlike any others we’ve seen. We’d like to live inside this woman’s brain, and dream inside her dreams.

The Shanghai-based X+Living practice is run by Li Xiang, and the architecture firm is entirely female led. Their goal is to bring ‘surprise and happiness’ to boring daily life and make people be immersed with a whimsical and artistic world – and X+Living couldn’t get it more right. From family-friendly spaces to hotels, restaurants, libraries, bookshops and tea rooms, each space features inventive, whimsical and playful interiors.

Here are a few spaces that have the Livingetc office drooling…

1. LOONG SWIM CLUB

The Loong Swim Club in Suzhou, China, is a whimsical swimming and recreational club for children and parents where geometric shapes create dream-like environments in each room. All the areas are meant to foster interaction between the children and their parents, encourages children to feel free and safe to play around in this wonderland.

The Loong Swim Club in Suzhou, China

The ‘eggshells castle’ is the centrepiece of the restaurant; the mirrored ceiling gives the room an endless horizon, reflecting the colourful interior, while the eggs are there to be played in and for climbing on top of, encouraging guests them to experience the space in a playful way.

The Loong Swim Club in Suzhou, China

Featuring giant slides and small nooks, the reading area includes a series of curved, over-sized seating pieces with bookshelves are incorporated into both of the seat’s ends. Looking up at the lights in the reading area, the round lampshades are meant to imitate sprays of water splashing in the sky.

The Loong Swim Club in Suzhou, China

Huge flower chandeliers adorn the baby bath area, providing eye-catching pieces to distract babies who are being bathed.

The Loong Swim Club in Suzhou, China

2. NEOBIO FAMILY PARK

Occupying the first floor and atrium of a shopping mall, the Neobio family park in Hanghzou puts traditional shopping mall layouts on its head. The project combines four main areas, each with multiple interactive spaces that transport kids in completely different environments. There are fantastical structures, including a circus-like counter in the water play area, robot-shaped ovens in the bakery classroom, and a huge castle that appears as if made of cardboard, and there are various visual references, including Las Vegas-style signs, cacti, and space age. A palette of pastel hues ties the space together.

Neobio family park in Hanghzou

There’s a virtual town for children in the main atrium, with spaces for rest, dining and entertainment.

Oversized parasol structures in the dining area mark out the location of different functions and contribute to a playful atmosphere.

Neobio family park in Hanghzou

The reading area simulates the relation between the rainbow and clouds, with an abstracted composition of structures that double as bookshelves and play objects where kids can climb on.

Neobio family park in Hanghzou

3. GAMING PAVILION

In the town of Mengduoduo, the Jiaxing Store is inspired by airports and childhood computer games.

Jiaxing Store

Arriving in the lobby, you enter a mock airport area where there’s a baggage check-in, security check-in and boarding. Clocks in different time zones are hung on the vertical moving line, and announcement notice boards are laid out on the horizontal moving line.

4. KIDS’ RESTAURANT

The Yooyuumi kids’ restaurant in Beijing is designed to let parents dine in an elegant space while their children are kept busy in a safe environment.

Yooyuumi kids’ restaurant in Beijing

The interiors feature furniture that seems to be taken from castles, while curtains enclose mini stages for children.

Yooyuumi kids’ restaurant in Beijing

5. NEW CENTURY HOTEL

It’s not just family-friendly spaces that get a playful vibe; X+Living have some super striking hotel designs under their belt too.

The New Century Magic Hotel in Huzhou was designed to appeal both to children and adults and features the architecture firm’s signature fantastical designs.

New Century Magic Hotel in Huzhou

The inspiration behind this project was a popular game the designers used to play as children, where you cut a small hole in the bottom of two paper cups and connect them with a cotton thread to create a phone. The designers used metal tubes to simulate the function of phones in the lobby, which engage both the parents and children in a joyful game.

New Century Magic Hotel in Huzhou

The hallways of the New Century Magic Hotel feature patterns that recall the geometry of Art Deco, albeit in a very contemporary manner.

New Century Magic Hotel in Huzhou

6. ZOO PARK HOTEL

Meanwhile the Zoo Park Hotel in Hangzhou has a more grown-up look. The art-focused property has an underlying wildlife conservation theme; X+Living transformed the space into an art exhibition about animal protection, raising awareness of endangered animals.

Zoo Park Hotel in Hangzhou

7. BOOKSTORE

Mirrored ceilings and zigzag staircases help form perplexing interiors in the Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore, giving the illusion of a myriad of staircases. At the centre of the store is a double-height hall, which features horizontal and vertical sets of stairs that lead up and across tall bookshelves that line the walls.

Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore

Mirrored panels that line the entire ceiling help amplify the size of the room and multiply the number of staircases.

Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore

The wide treads of the stairs double up as seats where visitors are encouraged to rest and read, a feature which the studio hopes will immerse the reader in their books and thoughts.

Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore

As well as providing space for locals to read and study, the store also includes a children’s reading room.

Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore

8. GUIYANG LIBRARY

X+Living created another stunning reading space in Guiyang. The immersive library starts in the corridor, that is meant to act as a portal into another dimension, with curved bookshelves overhead that are mirrored in the super-reflective floor surface. The bookstands, designed to look like ships, feature rounded bases and a metal arch that holds the lighting.

Guiyang library

The corridor leads guests to several reading areas, designed to encourage readers to get completely immersed and ‘transported’ into a different world.

Guiyang library

9. TEA ROOM

The Zhuyeqing Green Tea Flagship Store in Chengdu has an otherworldly, abstract interior, with seating nooks for tea service tucked into the space’s sculptural forms.

Zhuyeqing Green Tea Flagship Store in Chengdu

For this project, founder Li was inspired by Mount Emei, a peak near Zhuyeqing’s green tea farms and production facilities. The designers intended to present the landscape of high mountains shrouded in mist in order to provide an immersive experience.

Zhuyeqing Green Tea Flagship Store in Chengdu

In a country like China that’s currently undergoing rapid urbanization, with hundreds of architecture firms rising to the call for new buildings, we believe the design practice has only got bigger things to come.

We only hope that X+Living will be expanding into Europe someday, bringing these whimsical creations to the UK.

Scroll down for more of X+Living’s sumptuous designs…

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Powerlong Ideas Lab

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Kunshan Vientiane Children’s Theme Zone

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Shanghai Nairbao Family Center

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