17 November 2023

Heatherwick Studio designs new shopping district in the historic city of Xi’an

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Heatherwick Studio and CR Land are creating a new shopping district at the heart of the ancient city of Xi’an in Shaanxi, China. The design honours the city’s legacy of making and its historic connection to ceramics, creating space for
visitors to explore and relax as well as shop.

The development spans 115,000 square metres featuring offices, apartments, a hotel and a variety of green spaces including a rooftop garden, sunken terrace and gardens for visitors to come together and use as social spaces.  

Mat Cash, group leader and partner at Heatherwick Studio said:

“This new district in Xi’an explores how we can create variety and a sense of discovery and delight within a new-large scale urban development. Using natural materials, stepped terraces and an enveloping landscape we can create a city within a city merging retail, residential, office, cultural and leisure uses into one distinct place.”

The design breaks up the scale of a monolithic commercial volume into smaller interlocking buildings inspired by the familiar shape of traditional nesting tables. These ‘tables’ create a dynamic frame featuring a series of open terraces with gathering spaces. Greenery is woven through the design, with a variety of local plant species set both within the ground floor architecture and on each of the roof structures.

The entire district has been designed to offer visual complexity from three distances. At a city-scale, the district appears as a new verdant area of the city with a distinctive skyline inspired by the roofs of the Chinese temples of Xi’an. At a street distance, the varying levels created by the interlocking frames and landscape terraces provide different vantage points of the central plaza as well as the city around it. At door-level, the design offers a sensory experience in its use of materials and nature.

The materials used throughout the new district honour Xi’an’s legacy of making, especially its historic connection to ceramics. The buildings are clad using different patterns of ceramic cladding, inspired by the Terracotta Army, one of the most iconic examples of clay sculpture anywhere in the world. The design team worked closely with local makers to produce original ceramic patterns which add interest and intrigue to the exterior of buildings.

As with all Heatherwick Studio projects, the team designed the buildings through a process of making – constructing small scale models in-house and then erecting large scale visual mock-ups of the key elements of the building directly on site, enabling the team to see the real scale of the buildings as it will be experienced by the visitors and passers-by.

The project is currently in construction with the opening planned for 2024.