NIO House Chongqing is a car showroom and members’ facility for the Chinese electric car manufacturer. Taking advantage of the dramatic views from its location in the shopping centre of Chongqing’s new Raffles City complex, the two-storey showroom is organised around a feature staircase that takes inspiration from the city of Chongqing.
The Chinese market for electric cars is the largest in the world; in 2019, sales of electric cars in China even outstripped sales in all other countries combined. Founded in 2014, NIO is a promising manufacturing startup that is widely regarded as China’s answer to Tesla, making it an important player in the Chinese electric car boom. The NIO concept is heavily focused on optimistic thinking (their name in Chinese means “blue sky coming”) and on innovation, which permeates all aspects of their brand. This includes their showrooms, which reimagine the experience of car ownership with a members’ area in each “NIO House” that offers a café, meeting rooms, a library, a children’s play area known as the “joy camp”, and a “forum” space for events and exhibitions.
In their interior design for NIO House Chongqing, MVRDV has taken advantage of, and inspiration from, the views across the Yangtze and Jialing rivers provided by the showroom’s location in the shopping centre of the new Moshe-Safdie-designed Raffles City complex. Central to the design is the “3D City Mix” which connects the downstairs showroom to the members’ area upstairs. This staircase was inspired by the skyline of Chongqing, where buildings appear to ‘pile up’ in layers on the city’s steep hills. The 3D City Mix, therefore, includes layers of panels hiding stairs behind, with functional spaces such as a staff room contained below. Most of these panels are finished in different varieties of wood, however the uppermost panel is finished in blue marble, in reference to NIO’s “blue sky coming” philosophy. The blue marble is also used on the façade of the showroom facing the inside of the shopping centre, welcoming visitors with a reminder of NIO’s environmental and future-oriented ethos.
“One of the reasons we like working with NIO is their commitment to look at the world with a fresh eye, from their technologically advanced products to their innovative ‘NIO Houses’”, says Jacob van Rijs, architect and founding partner of MVRDV. “MVRDV and NIO share a desire for a sustainable future – for NIO, that means efficient, exciting electric vehicles, and for us it means dense, lively, and smart cities. So with our design for NIO House Chongqing – in the heart of one of China’s largest cities – we wanted to make a statement that celebrates the urban experience.”
The wood theme continues throughout the design, with the various spaces of the members’ area clad in multiple types of wood to create a luxurious yet playful environment. Around the outside of both floors is the ‘riverwalk’, a pathway connected across floors by the 3D City Mix and kept free from obstacles to allows visitors to enjoy the views from the windows of the shopping centre; the riverwalk, too, is demarcated with wood flooring.
A dramatically different concept, however, is adopted for the display of the cars themselves. The centre of the showroom floor is occupied by a white strip, covering the floor, ceiling, and wall. With the white backdrop designed to mimic a photographer’s studio, this gallery of cars shows NIO’s products in their best light.