100 is an architecture studio that doesn’t do buildings (at least in the conventional sense).
There are many ways to make a city; our approach is a little unusual. At 100architects, our practice is to make transformations in existing urban spaces. To further clarify, we are interested in the process of spatial transformation itself – the impactful addition of new architectural objects to spaces already configured. We call these transformations urban interventions. We don’t do street art or landscape design; we do projects of architecture that intervene in the cityscape and encode it with new functions. Our field of interest is at the crossroads of Architecture, Street Art, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Urban marketing. Interestingly enough, there is no name for what we do…
When we began as a studio, the first questions we asked ourselves were, ‘Why is our practice good? What does it bring to the city?” The answers – which we have been developing with every project – are that urban interventions bring surprise, identity, and unexpected changes to already developed areas of the city. They empower citizens to take and reclaim transformed public spaces as their own. They invite users to re-evaluate their city spaces and form new kinds of relationships with them. They foster a newfound sense of attachment between the public and the transformed cityscape.
In developing our studio, we have certainly met with a number of constraints: there is no clear market to develop our business in, there is a subsequent lack of clientele interested in our niche practices, and – most importantly – there is a lack of widespread appreciation for public art and architectural transformations. So how do we make this happen? Is there a way to have a sustainable business with this vision, and more importantly, can this business contribute to a more integrally sustainable city and society? Why would this be important? In light of the many challenges and questions, we are following our intuition and continuing to develop our concepts to find the answers and solutions.
Every body is screaming at the same time!
To better contextualize our work at 100architects, let’s first examine some of the issues we find present in global architecture today.
When we first started practicing architecture on an international level, we found ourselves in possession of a very disappointing viewpoint:
Specifically, architects fabricating “super concepts” have been abusing the use of the digital media tools and consequently producing an unprecedented amount of irrational ideas. Architecture attempting to produce landmarks in the race for distinction is overshadowing cities around the world, contributing very little in its self-obsession and giving rise to a fetishization of difference. This phenomenon is especially pervasive in rapidly growing economies where the need for fast construction and groundbreaking ideas is at an all-time high.
Architects all over the world envision creating opulent, unforgettable buildings. Ironically, however, the proliferation of difference equals homogeneity, and if everything is unique, then nothing really is. Every grandiose architectural proposal boasts a desire to be unforgettable, yet it is often all forgotten even before being published, becoming fast food architecture – instantaneously insignificant. “Often architects work too hard trying to make their buildings look different,” says David Chipperfield; “ It’s like we’re actors let loose on a stage, all speaking our parts at the same time in our own private languages without an audience.” (David Chipperfield, Architectural Digest Interview_Dec2013 by
100architects Shanghai
100architects emphatically opposes this current scene in architecture. We don’t want to be part of this abuse; we want to be part of the solution.
100architects was born to achieve a different goal. We want to re-evaluate urban spaces and places, color them and inject them with identity (even if that means alienating them from their surroundings). In doing so, we wish to encourage the public, empower them to enjoy and be amazed by the city that belongs to them.
Our form of architecture is most necessary in developing cities, where the biggest urban changes are occurring at a rapid pace and “placemaking” is a necessary operation. We understand that in these ever-evolving environments, it is often the public space that suffers the most. That is why our practice is located in the Asian giant, Shanghai, China – the symbol and center of the developing world. Our conviction that an architectural practice seeking to provide services all over the world needs to be at the centre of the action. With our roots in Shanghai, we strongly understand the need for public space in increasingly urbanized settings. Our aim is to tackle the international market as an architecture studio specialized in intervening urban environments in developing economies.
“Building inclusive, healthy, functional, and productive cities is perhaps the greatest challenge facing humanity today. There are no easy solutions. And yet a key part of the puzzle lies right in the heart of the world’s urban areas: the public spaces”
(UN-HABITAT Executive Director Joan Clos i Matheu)
Exposed functions and peoples magnets
At 100architects, we see the object not as a problem-solver, but rather, as an engine that brings out the best possibilities in a determined space and acts as a catalyst for social and commercial opportunities.
Our singular vision is to design architectural “objects” that attract people and encourage social interaction.
The experience lived in the public space plays a fundamental role in the citizens. By providing a broader range of public space possibilities, the city grows exponentially with its increased habitability.
Our goal is to intervene in the dense urban environments of the city’s public or semi-public spaces with architectural “objects” that impact the known cityscape (known in the sense that it has already been consolidated and established).
100 projects are meant for public use. They offer instant functions and experiences that invite users to interact, thus encouraging the production of social dynamics. These spaces often become recognizable by the masses in both the physical and virtual platforms.
We call exposed architecture to the typology of architecture that can be openly used from the exterior by the masses and is designed for public interaction.
Our projects create a dialogue with the public and interact with the city in an intimate way. With its appearance, morphology and impactful positioning, they invite users to jump, sit, lie, eat, watch, take photos, talk, hug, laugh, upload, run, play, enjoy, and relax.
Our design process comprises of three major principles or strategies, which uniquely position our urban interventions in the public realm. We call these the Grounded Object, Painted Scape and Suspended Structure.
1_Grounded Object:
It is an inhabitable architectural object inserted on top of an existing urban environment, but alienated from its surroundings. This architectural object intervenes in the space by touching the ground and acting as an accessible and multifunctional platform.
The interaction occurs in the interface between the object and the people inhabiting it, allowing people to stand on top of it and interact directly with the functions that the morphology provides.
2_Painted Scape:
The Painted Scape is a 2d architectural configuration, which is painted and/or coated to cover a significant area of an existing urban scape. This architectural configuration only intervenes – whether vertically or horizontally – on the surface of the space.
The interaction takes place in the interface between the user and the painted surfaces – vertical or horizontal – in which the user finds information, signals, games, functional areas and spaces to interact.
3_Suspended structure:
The Hanging Object is an architectural object that is suspended above the area to intervene, defining the space and providing with functions from above.
It is an intervention in which the architectural object intervenes the space without touching it, yet defines the space by providing functions from above.
The interaction happens in the interface between the “ceiling” that the hanging object provides and the spaces bellow, where the users stand.
The distinctiveness
We live in an era of information overload, of mass image consumption, of carefully marketed aesthetics. So how do we make our projects remarkable in this culture of disposability wherein art is forgotten as quickly as it is celebrated? How does this phenomenon of image addiction affect our designs? “The lifespan of any single design has been reduced to a week, an afternoon, a single post in an endlessly changing architecture journal, excellent projects receive the same fleeting attention as mediocre ones,” (Karla Sierralta and Brian Strawn, Clog: Brutalism).
We have come to understand that architectural objects for social interactions are not enough to attract the public on a large scale. Rather, they must play according to the rules of the culture of overstimulation, in addition to have a functional purpose. To make our projects remarkable and contemporary, we have found some key elements and rules to follow every time we approach a new proposal.
1_ contrast: It contrast with the context: Remarkable, iconic, colorful and eye-catching shape.
2_ aesthetic independency: Architectural objects with aesthetic independency. It is a singular shape in itself. it doesn’t mimic the surrounding.
3_ Pop & Controversial: Simple shape to be understood at the first glance (pop) disrupting in a known cityscape that belongs to everyone (controversial).
4_ instant functions: Composed by instant functions: openly used from the exterior providing of a programmatic landscape with condensed functions.
When we started our endeavours in early 2013, we found out that, much to our surprise, there were no other studios specializing in urban interventions like us. In fact, there was no knowledge of our particular field at all. The closest we found commercial installations or purely street art.
As we have clearly stated, we are not artists and we do not do artwork. We create projects of architecture that are equipped with a myriad of functions. Our projects are not designed to merely please the eye; they are devised to intervene in the cityscape, bring new functions to pre-established spaces, and be openly used by the masses from the exterior.
We strongly stand behind our architectural philosophies, and are unwavering in our prerogative to create objects of intervention; yet we have found it extraordinarily challenging to market our product in a profitable manner.
In developing our studio, we have certainly met with a number of constraints: there is no clear market to develop our business in, there is a subsequent lack of clientele interested in our niche practices, and – most importantly – there is a lack of widespread appreciation for public art and architectural transformations. And the biggest question of all: who will finance our projects? Who will pay for interventions in the public space? The government? Shop owners? Institutions?
While the marketing of our studio has indeed been a complex undertaking, we have found a way to sell our products by approaching it through the perspective of urban marketing.
The intervention in the urban space can be born out of the symbiosis between urban marketing and leisure spaces; therefore they come from private interest as well as public ones.
The first is our self-managed projects, which we create with the objective of finding the right sponsors who can give our work sufficient exposure and significance, and supply us with the necessary city council permits, contractors, etc.
Our second line of work are commissions from private clients and public institutions. These commissions generally have an objective related with the urban marketing, requiring our design to serve as authentic urban attractors. An architecture object (intervention) attract people by providing of a splash of colour and unusual interactions, therefore is mostly used to canalize commercial activity attracting customers and users, promoting brands and products.
Somehow everyone wants to attract people, No matter what you sell, it is transversal to any kind of industry.
Not all our projects are of a temporary nature. Obviously self-managed projects are supposed to be temporary, and also the ones related to urban marketing since the nature of marketing is usually ephemeral. However we work mainly with the objective of designing objects and interventions in public spaces to be integrated permanently within the cityscape.
100 creates & communicates
Beyond the design, 100 is a company that creates & communicates. In addition to our architectural interventions, we consider urban education as one of our major responsibilities. Especially because we are in an oblivious zone, or unimportant for many.
We embrace the digital culture we find ourselves in, and we develop our business to correspond with the social changes that are happening in the world. We believe that the ideas belong to the wind, and we therefore publish and broadcast every single piece of visual information we produce through a daily website broadcast and social networks. Our own website and all channels are based on this concept.
We design and broadcast not only our projects but also the ones that act accordingly to our principles, displaying them throughout our channels to provide with an open source of “street architecture” (not necessarily urban interventions)
Throughout this text, I have explored some issues of urban inhabitability in today’s developing cities, and I have also touched on the numerous challenges our studio faces as we try to provide solutions for these problems. Our studio is a reaction and response to this generation of overstimulation, and we believe that in spite of the constraints holding us back, our work is an important answer to contemporary urban issues. We believe that our work can help make cities better. We have witnessed firsthand the joy our projects bring to the public – the way they can turn neglected city space into places of color, stimulation and social interaction, and ultimately invite people to reclaim these urban areas for themselves. Our interventions bring new colors, functions and character to city space, and can therefore be understood as a form of urban celebration.
This leads to more questions: is our work a form of urban education? Moreover, can the public’s respect, usage and pride for the urban space be considered a form of education? At 100architects, we believe it is. We also believe that many of the urban challenges that developing cities are facing could be overcome with such an education. Note that this is not the kind of education you glean from a classroom or from your parents; it is an education you get from living in a city that provides spaces for public and urban enjoyment, spaces that invite to socialize and interact with the public; it is an innate understanding of how a city is built and how it’s very structure can benefit you. So in short, we believe our urban interventions contribute to the quality and habitability of a city, and simultaneously spread an awareness of urban aesthetics in the process.

Written, designed and developed by 100.
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