With nightlife venues around the world being forced shut,  has been a challenging year for clubbing. Streamed events have only partially filled the need for real-person encounters, and a longing for new clubs to open in China as elsewhere has grown strong especially among younger crowds and electronic music enthusiasts. For Q&A (a studio where music goes hand in hand with design as a creative force) Shanghai is the symbol of rebirth after COVID-19, and designing new techno club Potent offered a chance to restart the city’s nightlife and recharge aspirations and hopes for the future.

▼空间概览,overall view of the space ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN


The 600sqm venue is located in the heart of Shanghai’s main commercial center within the newly built Huaihai TX, a lifestyle mall hosting an array of hip concepts from streetwear apparel stores to hot-pot restaurants, specialty coffee shops, art exhibition spaces and even a skating rink and an indoor snowboarding slope.

▼平面图,plan ©Quarta & Armando


The design of the space draws from the many golden ages of clubbing and blends them together with an eye on the future. Q&A’s vision started with a purely spatial approach based on the fluid and unbound nature of musical experience, and settled for a concept offering club-goers an immersive experience through the use of material and light, separated into two distinct spaces: a Light Room and a Dark Room.

▼入口处的钢制橱柜,steel wardrobe at the entrance ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN

▼橱柜边设置通向俱乐部的走廊,corridor connecting to the club beside the wardrobe ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN


The club’s entrance features a steel see-through wardrobe made of movable panels and partitions, which open up a space that can be used for pop-up events during weekdays. Next to it, a 10m LED-lit corridor leads to the Light Room. This bigger and brighter space hosts early-night music and hip-hop performances, and is enlivened by the glimmering light of 880 solid acrylic pipes covering the walls, while Pantone-inspired ceiling lamps create a dimmer atmosphere in the sitting area. The curved walls in this space are welcoming and protective, inviting dancers to get lost in its many alcoves or to gather on the dancefloor. At the center of the space is the large ellipsoidal concrete bar, which is surmounted by a three-dimensional “disco-ball” made of laser-cut polished steel panels and acts as a focal point of the Light Room.

▼光屋,空间中部设置吧台,Light Room with a bar at the center of the space ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN

▼吧台上方悬挂钢板制成的迪斯科光球,disco ball made of steel panels suspended above the bar ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN

▼发光亚克力管墙面和座椅区,seating area with glimmering acrylic pipes ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN

▼潘通色的顶灯形成较为昏暗的氛围,Pantone-inspired ceiling lamps creating a relatively dimmer atmosphere ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN


Tucked behind one of the sitting nooks is the access to the Dark Room. The Dark Room is a more intimate space focused on techno music and late-night concerts. Its atmosphere is raw and in sharp contrast with the fluid and bright spaces of the main room: with shiny black vinyl sofas, dark steel tables, embossed and perforated steel panels for the walls, its different materials and textures are barely perceived through the faint light. Traces of the original building structure are revealed here and there by the intermittent lights of laser beams shooting from the walls and enveloping the dancefloor, the real protagonist of the space.

▼通往暗屋的入口,entrance to the Dark Room ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN

▼穿孔钢板墙面和裸露的结构,walls embossed with perforated steel panels and exposed structures ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN

▼镭射光包裹出的舞台,dancefloor enveloped by laser light ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN


Hopping from the Light Room to the Dark Room and vice versa, clubgoers are captured by the multifaceted possibilities of music as an alchemy for social encounters, and cannot but agree with us in feeling nightclubs are a crucial element of a city’s culture. With Potent, Q&A are giving their humble contribution to the cultural reawakening of Shanghai, one dance at a time.

▼家具细部,furniture details ©Peter Dixie / LOTAN

Client: Shanghai Potent Club Ltd. Co
Location: Huaihai TX, 534 Huaihai Middle Road, Shanghai (China)
Built area: 600 sqm
Completion (date):  January 2021

Space Design: Q&A – Quarta & Armando Architecture Design Research (www.qaadr.com, @quarta_armando)
Design Team: Gianmaria Quarta, Michele Armando, Tang Shiyuan, Carlin Sun
Project Management: Gu Tao / Digitects
Lighting Consultant: Oway Lighting Solutions

Creative Direction: Gianmaria Quarta, Michele Armando
Architecture Photographer: Peter Dixie / LOTAN (www.lo-tan.com, @lotanarchphoto)
Portraits Photographer: Raul Ariano (www.raulariano.com, @raulariano)
Assistant: Enrico De Luca
Models: Xiaowei Fang @xiaoweifang, Diana Borsh @diborsh, Chunlu Zhang @lululuuuuuu, Lin Feng