‘1000 Trees’: Shanghai Reveals Visionary New Eco-Lifestyle Mall That Mimics A Mountain

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Tian An China Investments has completed construction on a new green mall in Shanghai. The building sits snugly amidst the city’s art district. Called ‘1000 Trees’, it is covered with greenery, cascading over various levels, to resemble a mountain.

London-based architects firm Heatherwick Studio was granted the new mall design commission. Previously completed projects include Google’s London offices, found in the heart of King’s Cross, and the UK Pavilion in Shanghai. The latter cost £25 million and was constructed for the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

Image courtesy of Heatherwick Studio.

A slice of nature in the city

1000 Trees is a multifaceted building consisting of white concrete and landscaped plinths. It sits on the Suzhou Riverbank and has been adorned with 1,000 trees plus 250,000 smaller plants.

“This huge project was extraordinary to be asked to work on because of the way it sits in Shanghai, right next to the Suzhou Creek, a park and M50, the city’s main art district,” Thomas Heatherwick, founder and principal of Heatherwick Studio told Inside Retail.

Taking cues from the cultural surroundings, the mall’s façade features street art pieces created by domestic and international artists. Portuguese creator Vhils and Britain’s Mode2 are among those exhibited. 

The design team claims to have taken visual cues from neighbouring buildings. The Fufeng Flour Mill and Packaging Warehouse were included, though a monolithic end result was defiantly avoided. The design has been crafted to make the mall a series of human interest spaces, not one massive expanse.

“We took our clues from the scale of the old buildings next door and became interested in how to break down the visual feeling of our singular huge development into an accumulation of smaller elements,” Heatherwick said in a statement.

Function and beauty

Aside from injecting a swathe of nature into a built-up urban space, 1000 Trees acts as a high-performance retail arena. “We hope that 1000 Trees will be a transformative piece of topography and when you zoom in, it will reveal a multitude of human-scale places, framing the lives of the people that live and work there,” Heatherwick concluded.

Image courtesy of Dezeen.

The 67,706 sqm of space plays home to 12 flagship outlets, 91 shops, and a further 63 restaurants. Layout has been determined by grouping similar businesses together. The basement operates as a food court and supermarket. This is followed by five floors of stores and four levels of restaurants.

“1000 Trees was conceived not only as an urban neighbourhood revitalization project but a well-scaled ‘Green Lung’ space that engages its surrounding neighbourhoods,” Patrick Lee, CEO of Tian An China Investments said of the building.

The shopping centre was the first phase of a larger project and was completed in December 2021. Phase two has begun, which will see a 19-storey second ‘mountain’ built to house offices and a hotel. Completion is anticipated within two years. Overall, the development is designed to explore and contribute to the relationships between commerce, art, design and landscape. 

Green buildings of the future

Last year it was reported that Skellefteå, a city in Sweden, has built a skyscraper from wood. Known as a “plyscraper”, it is the latest innovation from an already progressive city that runs on 100 percent clean energy. A demonstration of carbon neutrality and renewability in industrial building, Sara Kulturhus will reach net-zero in 50 years and has been designed to last at least 100.
Hong Kong is making steps toward greener construction as well. Last March it was announced that the Advancing Net Zero competition had been launched. The initiative invited relevant professionals to conceive ways to bring carbon neutrality into the building industry.

Lead image courtesy of Heatherwick Studio.


  • Amy Buxton

    A long-term committed ethical vegan and formerly Green Queen's resident plant-based reporter, Amy juggles raising a family and maintaining her editorial career, while also campaigning for increased mental health awareness in the professional world. Known for her love of searing honesty, in addition to recipe developing, animal welfare and (often lacklustre) attempts at handicrafts, she’s hands-on and guided by her veganism in all aspects of life. She’s also extremely proud to be raising a next-generation vegan baby.

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