When tasked with designing a small retail space, Wuxiang Architecture Design Studio (WUUX) looked past the limits of the square footage to create a space where customers could look into eternity.

Staircases run along the ceiling at the surreal WUUX-designed Zhima Health Store at Universal Studios Beijing.

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The roughly 322 square feet of Zhima Health’s “Beijing Youli” store at the new Universal Beijing Resort posed a significant challenge to WUUX and its founder Wang Yong. That small space was to be the first stop for visitors coming to experience the thrill of movie magic in the Chinese iteration of the Universal Studios theme park.

A closer look at the surreal upside down staircases running along the ceilings of the Zhima Health Store at Universal Studios Beijing.

Diverging stairs snake through archways at the Zhima Health Store at Universal Studios Beijing.

Side view of the Zhima Health Store at Universal Studios Beijing shows surreal staircases trialing off through massive steel arches.

The designers had to somehow create a space that provided both function and “strong emotional value” for visitors to the park. Taking inspiration from the Hollywood blockbuster Inception, Yong infinitely expanded the small square footage with a series of steel arches and ceiling-mounted staircases that appear to be replicating themselves from multiple points in the room.

“The entire space, thanks to the arches and stair structures, resembles an unfolded accordion which is waking up the folded time and space,” explains the Beijing-based firm.

WUUX schematics for the Zhima Health Store at Universal Studios Beijing.

The design started with five tall mirrored steel arches that run the length of the store and intersect each other at the midpoint of the ceiling. Then three blonde wood “endless ladders” were positioned to look like they were coming out of the walls from above. To achieve this psychedelic look, Wong and his team added full-length mirrors on the back wall and the ceiling. Finally, the rammed earth walls were outfitted with display space for Zhima Health products, which in turn get visually boomeranged throughout the M.C. Escher-like space.

Staircase wraps through archways above the Zhima Health store's bar area.

Upside-down staircases wrap through archways above the Zhima Health store's bar area.

“‘A whole glass on the ceiling and one side of the wall, together with the stretching structures that present a distortion in time and space, seems to have eliminated the boundary of the room and distorted time in a dazzling way,” says Wong of the design. “With light projecting from underneath the ground and structured light belts on the arches, a metaverse is throwing its arms wide open to all customers.”

Mirrors and upside-down staircases create an M.C. Escher feel inside the Zhima Health Store at Universal Studios Beijing.

The Zhima Health store's spiraling upside staircases are reflected in shiny black surfaces below.

As the first stop off the subway into the park, the Zhima Health Beijing Youli store fulfills its call to “carry on the essence while pursuing innovations” of the time-honored brands it stocks. The illusion of warped reality provides an ideal realm for social networking and grabbing a refreshing drink before entering the theme park for a day of thrills.

WUUX’s eye-catching store has been hailed as a “disruptive new retail experience” that caters to the “diversified preferences” of China’s youth that also “conforms to resort culture.”

Surreal Zhima Health Store at Universal Studios Beijing was inspired by the hit Hollywood film

Since being founded in 2015 by Wang Yong, Wuxiang Architecture Design Studio has been involved in everything from interior design and architecture to environmental art design and space art consultation. The firm “pays attention to the sense of temperature in space and is dedicated to the purpose behind things.” The Zhima Health store at Universal Studios Beijing is the latest in a long list of work WUUX has done in commercial real estate, hotels and resorts, high-end clubs, corporate space customization, and retail experience stores.