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WeWork | Courtesy of WeWork/ Instagram
WeWork | Courtesy of WeWork/ Instagram
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This Stunning Coworking Space in Shanghai Used to Be an Opium Factory

Picture of Rachel Deason
Updated: 8 June 2017
Shanghai is no stranger to urban renewal. Many of its coolest buildings are, in fact, renovated from historical structures, some with seedy pasts. Coworking spaces are a bit newer in the city, having gained in popularity massively within the past few years. Here’s the story of how one of those spaces, WeWork, came to occupy a former opium factory.

WeWork is one of the biggest names in coworking spaces. Founded in 2010, the company now hosts community-driven work sites in over 11 countries, including five in Shanghai alone. But their location on Weihai Rd. isn’t just any other coworking space. It is the latest resident in an early 20th century building that started out as a warehouse for the East India Company.

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Located in central Jing’an District, the Weihai Rd WeWork building was originally designed as a London-style mansion during the city’s colonial past. After the East India Company moved out, it became host to more than 40 artist studios and galleries. Then, it is rumored, an opium factory moved in.

Architectural Digest notes that WeWork’s entry into a former opium factory demonstrates the company hasn’t lost its “start-up cool.” Ashley Couch, senior associate director of interior design at WeWork says that the design aims to “facilitat[e] and driv[e] experiences that intertwine with the existing architecture that are meaningful and bring them to life.”

WeWork’s in-house design team, partnered with local architecture firm Linehouse, wanted to preserve and celebrate the history of the building. Among the bright atrium and industrial-chic, green-clad staircase is hand-painted poppy wallpaper, a nod to the illicit substance that once defined the building.

The building’s current resident may be more clean-cut than those of the past, but it is every bit as entrepreneurial. Who knows what hip and business-minded entity will take up residence next.

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Want to check it out for yourself? You’ll find the stunning building at 696 Weihai Rd, Jing’an District, Shanghai, China, 200041.