Heatherwick Studio Has a Daring Plan for Shanghai’s Main Arts District
The London-based architecture firm devises a series of tree-covered buildings that rise and fall like a mountain
Heatherwick Studio plans for M50, Shanghai’s main arts district, includes a series of tree-covered buildings.
London-based architecture firm Heatherwick Studio has a reputation for daring work, perhaps nowhere more so than in China. At Expo 2010 in Shanghai, its otherworldly UK Pavilion, known as the Seed Cathedral, electrified local developers, who later met with the firm to discuss a plan for a plot next to Shanghai's main arts district.
Known as M50, the plot sits next to a public park and is split across two areas, separated by a narrow strip of government property. The proposal called for the creation of a 3.2-million-square-foot mixed-use development within a residential part of the city that is surrounded by concrete towers on three sides. The developers envisioned the project to be a study in topography, and not merely another series of skyscrapers. As a result, Heatherwick Studio devised a plan for a series of tree-covered buildings, populated by approximately 1,000 structural columns.
“Normally, the large-scale projects that we are quite used to seeing have big boxes, and the role of the designer is figuring out what pattern of architectural wrapping paper to put on these boxes,” said Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studio, while speaking recently at this year’s Business of Design Week in Hong Kong. “We wondered if there was a way to make better working spaces by also making access to outdoors.” The structures start modestly at one end of the development but grow taller as they approach the other end, cresting in a series of mountain-like buildings.
The development—which will be home to a school, offices, residences, hotels, and retail outlets—has been under construction since 2014 and is scheduled for completion by 2018.
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