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Interview with architect & spatial designer Shirley Dong

Shirley Dong is a multidisciplinary sustainable architect, spatial designer cofounder and principal at STUDIO8

Shirley Dong graduated from the Architecture and Urban Planning Campus of Tongji University. Then she went to Milan, Italy for further study and received a master of interior and living design from Domus Academy and architecture interior from the University of Wales. After over ten years of experience working in both architecture and interior design fields, Shirley has come back to Shanghai and founded Studio8 with her Italian partner Andrea Maira, who is specialized in interior design. They started to do VI+interior+architecture design, they keep their core team international, but they also like using local cultural elements in their design. Their studio never afraid of facing new challenges, yet always with a clear image and strategy.

This interview appeared first on Planet China Vol 11, Celebrating Women who push boundaries.

Instagram | Studio8

When you were a child did you dream and want to become an architect? What’s the story behind your motivation to study architecture?

When I was a child, I liked a lot painting. I used to live in an old villa. It was divided, renovated, and modified at different times by different families. I was always fascinated by detail and space. I always go play at my neighbors’ to explore a different part of the building. But since a child, my family, especially my beloved grandpa wanted me to be a doctor. I was quite convinced I’ll be a doctor until one day my dad said to me, “do you know you don’t have to be a doctor?” when I was in high-school. Since then, I’ve understood my real passion and decided to be an architect. I knew I loved creative jobs to create something from scratch and creating buildings/space seemed to be the best job I could imagine.

Shirley Dong works in both architecture and interior design fields and experienced for several years in Milan

Gallery VI

Which architects inspired you the most? Who influenced you as a person and as a creative?

Mies Va Der Rohe, RCR, Peter Zumthor, Studio Mumbai. My grandpa and my dad. They both have taught and inspired me to look at the world from a different perspective.

What do you enjoy most about your work? Which project has given you the most satisfaction thus far?

I enjoy it most when we are able to design the building and interior together, with visual identity and FF&E curated under the same concept of the space. Thus, Anadu Resort, which we have designed architecture, interior, and visual identity, is the most satisfying project, which we are able to deliver a complete design from the landscape, architecture, interior, and VI.

Studio8 works with visual concepts in any form to create experiences that improve surroundings


Shirley Dong is co-founder and principal of Studio8 with Andrea Maira. Based in Shanghai, Studio8 is a multidisciplinary studio designing everything. The team has been dedicating to providing complete solutions from the visual identity and branding, to the furniture and architecture for restaurants, hotels, stores, and residences, curating details in all aspects. The firm is constituted of an international team of young creatives with a unique vision and sensibility of integrating branding with space design. Studio8 has a great passion for creating and constantly explores new materials and new techniques.

You are co-founder of STUDIO8. Can you tell us how you started it?

I’ve founded the studio with my partner Andrea Maira. He is an excellent interior designer, who has an amazing eye for graphic design. Together, we have decided to concentrate on designing a complete experience from space to visual details. Our first project was a gallery interior and VI design. It was not an architect project, but it was quite meaningful for us.

Can you share with us any meaningful story behind one of your work projects?

It’s not an architecture project. But as I’ve mentioned above, it’s quite a meaningful project for us. And I want to share it because, for me, it represents our cultural approach and principle that each detail matters and shall tell the same story. It’s a Chinese gallery that sells only square paintings. We were asked to design the space and visual identity system. We have created a delicate ink mark of a square indigo ink drop as the key element of the whole VI system, which then of course is used in the interior design.

Studio8 is a young and fun-loving group of creative people working also on an experimental division call Caozitou

Anadu Resort

What about environmental and sustainability in your work? What role does green play nowadays in architecture and interior design fields?

In our projects, we always try our best to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, especially in material selection. I think green should be always one of the first guides when it comes to design decisions. The architect is a responsible job, that we shall be responsible to our work considering also our responsibility to the global environment.

What do you think are the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability?

The greatest challenge for me is to find the best way to let the clients understand the importance of it with the least compromise of experience, aesthetic, and cost.

We are globally into a pandemic, and we are also facing climate changes. How does the pandemic is affecting the architectural and design scene?

The climate changes are reminding us again the green should be the fundamental guide for our design decision. As to the pandemic, I honestly didn’t find it affecting much architectural and design scene, also because I deeply believe the importance of being timeless for our works and I think the pandemic change is just a very short frame in the long time axis. I think it has helped us to understand more the importance of using local material and resources, which is also one of our main design principles. For example, in Anadu Resort we have designed, we’ve used a lot of reclaimed material like wood and bricks. We also have used local materials like bamboo and handcrafts like bamboo weaving.

When she works on a project, the concept of the building is focused on design but deeply considering also designing the experience

Charcohol restaurant

How do you think architects and designers will adapt ways of practicing to advance the profession? Are there any ideas that should be front and center?

Ideas that I think should be front and center in our profession I think is to always stick with our principles, to keep evaluating them and reviewing them during practice; to be responsible; to have more various-user perspective without keeping thinking for ourselves. In a fact, I think there shouldn’t be the concept of “I” (“I like… I want… I think…) in our profession. Our role is to be sensible enough to feel what the users feel and think what they need, what the place needs, what the world needs.

Photos courtesy of Shirley Dong & Studio8

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