Innovative Minds, Inspired Designs, A Match Made in Design Heaven: Shanghai’s Architecture Power Couple, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu

February 14, 2023



Bien Aronales

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime,” wrote one of America’s most celebrated athletes, Babe Ruth, on success and teamwork. This quote especially rings true with Shanghai’s own Dynamic Duo of Architecture, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu.

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu Shanghai Architect

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu are a dynamic duo in both life and work. They established their architecture firm, Neri&Hu Design and Research Office, in Shanghai almost 20 years ago and have since made a significant impact in the field of architecture. They’ve made their impact by incorporating their main vision – combining various design disciplines to create a new standard in architecture with a global perspective – into their product lines and projects worldwide.

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu Shanghai Architect
Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu Shanghai Architect

They seek an approach to design that borrows from various disciplines to produce experiences that enrich current life while still maintaining a crucial link to a shared history, whether through personal daily use products or vessels of inhabitation. 

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu Shanghai Architect

Both as visiting professors at various universities, including Harvard Graduate School of Design and Yale School of Architecture, also with Rossana serving as the chair of the architecture department at Tongji University, they share their knowledge and expertise through instruction. In their work, they are known for their commitment to design integrity and delivering well-crafted solutions in their projects.

Following Fate to A New Design Frontier

Lyndon and Rossana share what urged them to move to Shanghai and start their own firm. 

“In 2004 we started our own studio. The move to China was propelled by a project in Shanghai. The client requested to have Lyndon’s physical presence there for a short stay, [but] the short stay turned into a long stay, and we realized how much we would be able to contribute and be a part of an exciting era for Chinese architecture, so we made the move. Rossana’s father was from Shanghai, and she felt it was rightfully a full-circle moment for her to move back and practice in Shanghai.”

According to Lyndon and Rossana, they handle their relationship when it comes to running Neri&Hu Design and Research Office as a team. Many architectural firms are run by husband and wife teams, possibly because the demands of the job make it necessary to work together to maintain a successful marriage. Nevertheless, it is also enjoyable and fascinating to share both life and work together. This allows them to view things through a work-related lens even when they are traveling, leading to a constant exchange of ideas about design. For these couples, work and life are closely intertwined and inseparable. 

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu Shanghai Architect

“The beauty of our partnership is that life and work are completely intertwined and we get to cover each other in both our personal and professional lives,” the couple notes as a testament to how well they work together, whether it’s for work or for their home life.

Rossana Hu Shanghai Architect
Lyndon Neri Shanghai Architect

But the power couple cautions against generalizations of relationships. They point out that no two people are alike, and therefore no two couples are alike. What works for them might not work for everyone else. They chalk up their success to their individual strengths as well as how well they fit together as a team.

In fact, they disclose that their relationship is not without ups and downs. “We also argue with each other all the time. But it makes the relationship close and stronger because with each disagreement you understand one another more.”

Up Close and Personal With Neri&Hu’s Architectural Style and Flair

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu approach their work as a team, utilizing the unique strengths they bring to the table. They don’t typically consider the categorization of style when they approach design. They prefer to see themselves as “critical thinking architects,” who delve deeply into problems and generate solutions that address the issues at hand.

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu Shanghai Architect
Lyndon Neri Shanghai Architect

Their collaboration allows them to tackle projects in an organic manner, based on their availability and interest. The couple shares most aspects of their work, allowing for a seamless integration of their ideas and expertise. This dynamic and flexible approach has proven to be highly effective, making them one of the most sought-after architect couples in the industry.

The Waterhouse at South Bund

The Waterhouse, a four-story boutique hotel with 19 rooms, is situated in the South Bund District of Shanghai, near the Cool Docks development. The building is an adaptation of a three-story Japanese Army headquarters from the 1930s and boasts views of the Huangpu River and the vibrant Pudong skyline across the water. The design by Neri&Hu emphasizes the contrast between the old and new elements of the building. The original concrete structure has been preserved, while new additions were constructed using Cor-Ten steel, a nod to the area’s industrial past. The fourth floor addition by Neri&Hu, made of the same material, serves as a connection to the history and cultural significance of the working docks along the Huangpu River.

The hotel’s interior was also designed by Neri&Hu. It expresses a blurring and inversion of the interior and exterior as well as between the public and private realms, creating a disorienting yet refreshing spatial experience for the visitor who yearns for a distinctive five-star hospitality experience. The wide vertical window above the reception desk and the corridor windows that look out onto the dining room are examples of private areas that entice one to look out onto public spaces while the public spaces invite one to peep into private quarters. In addition to adding a sense of surprise, these visual links to unexpected locations make hotel guests confront the Shanghai urban environment, where visual corridors and adjacencies in close longtang’s distinctive spatial flavor of the city.

The Brick Wall – Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat

Another project the dynamic duo is known for is The Brick Wall – Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat. This project was a challenging one, as Lyndon and Rossana had to construct a 20-room boutique hotel adjacent to Yangzhou’s picturesque Slender West Lake and home to a number of pre-existing buildings. In order to meet the hotel’s capacity requirements, the design brief asked for the adaptive reuse of some of the ancient structures by giving them new uses.

In order to bring the project as a whole together, Neri&Hu used a grid of walls and trails to overlay over the site, creating several courtyard enclosures. The courtyard house typology of traditional Chinese architecture is where the design was initially inspired. Similar to a typical courtyard, this one establishes hierarchy among the areas, frames views of the sky and the ground, incorporates the landscape into the building, and blurs the lines between the inside and outside. While the rustic materiality and layered rooms aim to reinvent tradition with a modern architectural language, Neri&Hu’s aim with this project is to use a significant landscape element—the wall and courtyard—to unite a complicated site and program.

Nantou City Guesthouse

Nantou City Guesthouse in Nantou City, Shenzhen

One of their most recent and celebrated projects is the Nantou City Guesthouse. An adaptive reuse project for an eleven-room guesthouse located in Nantou City, Shenzhen. Located in the center of the astonishingly growing city of Shenzhen, Nantou City has changed from being a wealthy old capital to the congested inner city it is today. Visitors are quickly immersed in the congested plazas, dead ends, and alleys where locals, street merchants, unattended kids, and nomads alike roam.

The Nantou City Guesthouse project is inspired by the cultural heritage of the alleyways in Nantou City. The design focuses on everyday scenes, people, objects and settings, which serve as the main source of inspiration. The existing structure was altered to create a new public realm inside the previously private apartment block, revealing material layers and building structures. The design is guided by Svetlana Boym’s writings on reflective nostalgia, aiming to unearth past elements that can invigorate contemporary culture. The building features two distinct architectural styles, a light screen-like façade and a heavier expressive assemblage. The rooftop features a flat floating roof that provides a panoramic view of the street life below and serves as a new public ground. The entrance to the guesthouse is integrated into the network of alleyways and the old and new elements of the building are juxtaposed to celebrate ruins. The building transforms itself into a part of the city, making its private history legible and becoming fully ingrained in the city.

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu’s unwavering commitment to design excellence and their ability to seamlessly blend architecture with complementary disciplines have made them one of the most successful and respected architect couples in the industry. They continue to push boundaries and shape the future of architecture through their innovative and thought-provoking designs. Their collaborative partnership, both in life and in business, is a testament to the power of teamwork and a shared passion for creating meaningful and impactful spaces. As they continue to take on new challenges and projects, it is clear that the sky is the limit for this dynamic duo.

Neri&Hu is a thriving and diverse architecture firm based in Shanghai with a global reach. With projects all over the world, a multilingual team, and a goal to integrate a global perspective into a new approach in architecture, the practice is truly international in nature.

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu Shanghai Architect

Neri&Hu’s choice of location in Shanghai is deliberate. As a new global hub, the firm is at the heart of this modern city and uses its rich cultural, urban, and historical background as a starting point for a wide range of design explorations. They have also expanded beyond the traditional boundaries of architecture to incorporate related disciplines. The focus on careful research, including the examination of program, site, function, and history, is central to their work and sets the foundation for the dynamic interplay between experience, detail, material, form, and light, rather than relying on a formulaic design style.


Sittings Editor GEEWEL FUSTER





Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat PEDRO PEGENAUTE

Nantou City Guesthouse CHEN HAO


Video Producer MIGUEL LIM


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