MDO has designed a stylish flower shop on the ground floor of an old house in Shanghai, and comprise a series of cellular spaces that open up to a large garden at the rear. MDO conceived the design as a “linear journey of reveal”, where each space creates a unique engagement with the flower arrangements and the viewer.
The owner of Absolute Flowers, Ms. Jing, has an instinctive and timeless love for flowers inspired by her first glimpse of a boutique when she was a child. She established Absolute Flower Shop in 2012 and over the past 8 years, the boutique has created many stunning works of art based on her philosophy of “exquisite, tasteful and ingenious”. These works explore the boundaries between the natural and the artificial, often presenting the flowers in surreal yet magical displays.
The shop is located in Shanghai’s Anfu Lu neighborhood, which is known for its trendy cafés, retail stores and residential life.
“When we first and saw these works presented in a white space, we were interested in the contrast, how a neutral background becomes an essential element in the presentation,” explains the studio. MDO’s intervention is conceived as a series of insertions into the old fabric. Cool stainless steel frames contrasting with the rough texture of the existing Shanghai wall.
The floor plan is split into three elements: street gallery, artificial landscape, and secret garden. One first encounters the shop from the street through gallery, viewed through a small shop window. This window dates back from a time where the local community could buy day to day goods through the small window directly off the street, directly connecting the community to the interior. This practice no longer occurs, but MDO wanted to reference this practice by creating a gallery viewed solely from the street, which will present an evolving series of installations made only of the flowers available at the time of the year. Each window becomes a framed painting of another world, a scene connected to the seasons. The rear of the space is one way mirror, hiding the spaces within, and allowing the viewer to see themselves in the reflection with the flower installation.
Entering from the street the viewer passes beside the gallery where the light comes solely from a digital screen showing the previous flower creations. This digital moment, an acknowledgement to how we now consume design, creates a palette cleanse before experiencing the real plants within.
The main heart of the shop was conceived as an artificial landscape, a neutral terrain to contrast with the flower installations. A subdued palette of bush hammered stone and brushed stainless steel boxes rise up through the space providing different height plinths for flower display.
A private studio connects to the main gallery where the owner has space to work on large scale installations. The studio is connected to the garden through a large existing wrought iron window, which allows guests a glimpse of the new creations as they pass outside.
The main studio opens out onto the secret garden, a generous 100sqm space unique in Shanghai. The garden is a place of relaxation, where the owner can enjoy tea with her friends. There was an existing tree that MDO wanted to use as a shelter, so the design uses an L-shaped bench that wraps the tree, creating a quiet oasis in the heart of the city. The seating area is designed as series of planes, where the verticality of the tree is balanced by a water feature and low-level planting area.
MDO designed with sound and memory. The crunch underfoot on the gravel path reminds the designer of long lazy summers spent at his grandmother’s country house in the UK. While the gentle trickle of water evokes a feeling of peace and tranquility.