Dezeen Magazine

Gordon Wu CityLocal by Aberrant Architecture

Aberrant Architecture have proposed a mobile office canteen so that people working from home in residential areas can feel like they're part of a big company.

The project, created for the Shenzhen & Hong Kong bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, is part of a larger conceptual scheme called Gordon Wu CityLocal, which is named after a prominent Hong Kong businessman and which aims to combat sensations of isolation and distraction when switching from working in the city to working at home.

Conceptual products include elevator doors that can be installed in the home to recreate a sense of arrival at the office, and a treadmill with screen where users step around virtual businessmen to simulate commuting to work.

The designers set up a stand at the biennale in Shenzhen promoting fictional business models that could take advantage of the trend towards working from home, including dog-walking facilities that allow workers to meet others.

Aberrant Architecture collaborated with MISC, Daniel Wiltshire, Ed Butler, Melissa Appleton and Niall Gallacher on various parts of the project.

Watch a movie about the project here.

The biennale has been extended until 31 January.

More detailed information from Aberrant Architecture below:


Aberrant Architecture is a design studio and think tank founded in Tokyo in 2007 by David Chambers and Kevin Haley to explore a world full of contradiction and complication. The notion of working is our primary area of research.

Aberrant have produced an architectural hoax for this year’s SZHK Biennale: a fiction based on facts, entitled ‘Gordon Wu’ CityLocal™. They have created a fake exhibition stand within the biennale and are selling a series of franchised, small business opportunities for the inhabitants of Shenzhen’s villages in the city, which highlights the changing relationship between living and working in the contemporary city.

What is ‘Gordon Wu’ CityLocal™ Franchises?

‘Gordon Wu’ CityLocal™ presents a series of franchised, small business opportunities for the inhabitants of Shenzhen’s villages in the city. These franchised businesses will provide the infrastructure needed to grow and facilitate the further mobilization of the city.

Who is Gordon Wu?

Gordon Wu has an obsession: to create infrastructure for the future of Asia. An example is his superhighway which includes a series of intersections at points where there is no visible reason to get off or on, making it a highway that apparently leads nowhere. Yet Gordon Wu is a visionary. The highway is a tool, vital for the creation of entirely new (currently un-built) Chinese cities of the future. Evidently, where Gordon Wu leads, others will follow.

Why CityLocal™ Franchises?

Since the mid ‘90s, working from home has become an everyday part of modern employment practices in all major industrial countries. There’s increasing evidence that a similar revolution is underway in China.

Aside from the more obvious remunerative benefits for both employer and employee, such as reduced overheads and travel costs, there are less appealing consequences for the new home worker that should not be overlooked. These include a sense of isolation bred from loss of friendship and lack of face to face interaction, numerous distractions including Facebook, Party Poker and online pornography, a less fertile environment in which to gain status and promotion within a workforce, not to mention a potential lack of direction and support from the absent employer. Quite simply, could too much freedom be a dangerous thing?

There are 1000’s of home workers in Shenzhen that are looking for services that currently do not exist and this growth in home working is forecast to continue.

Gordon Wu believes in change…

In recent years, most large Chinese cities have constructed sprawling mono-functional residential areas with reckless abandon. These gated compounds become isolated islands in the city, and with little regard for public space and cultural programmes, human encounters are unlikely within them. ‘Gordon Wu’ CityLocal™ believes that home working from such developments might prove highly derogatory to the home-workers quality of life. Clearly home working in China is an emerging trend, yet the new residential developments of cities like Shenzhen are totally unprepared for it.

‘Gordon Wu’ CityLocal™ Franchises

‘Gordon Wu’ CityLocal™ believes that Shenzhen already has in place a ready-made solution to successfully support the growing home based mobile workforce. With some intervention from our franchised business opportunities, we believe that Shenzhen’s urban villages and the energy of the social conditions that they provide will prove to be the tool that facilitates the further expansion of mobility in the city.

The phenomenon of the Village in the City (ViC) is perceived by many as the downside of today’s flourishing China; an urban scar that needs to be removed. Yet we see them as a unique and rich social and architectural phenomenon. Twenty- four-hour mini-cities which - unlike the middle-class residential compounds - provide small-scale shopping streets, intimate public spaces and, above all, opportunities for small businesses.