Heatherwick project with 1000 trees

The “1000 Trees” complex by Studio Heatherwick resembles a forested rock mountain enthroned on Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek. The project will partially open in 2020, yet it is already spectacular. Countless trees are actually rooted in the walls of the new building.

The name says it all: “1000 Trees” is the title given by British studio Heatherwick to its current project in Shanghai. As the latest pictures demonstrate, the cliff-like façade of the vast mixed-use complex really is growing like a young forest.

From façade to forest

The new building designed for property developer Tian An China is located in a residential area 20 minutes from the city centre. Measuring 15 hectares in total, the site borders Shanghai’s M50 arts district and a public park.

“1000 Trees” itself consists of two tree-covered “mountains” with hundreds of supporting pillars. Here, the Heatherwick architects took an element that is normally concealed and assigned it a whole new purpose: the pillars have been designed as giant plant pots capable of bearing trees.

The first part of the "1000 Trees" complex can already be admired from outside. (Photo: Qingyan Zhu)
Even though it has not yet been officially opened, the first part of the “1000 Trees” complex can already be admired from outside.

The integrated planting and specially lowered building edges aim to help the new building to gel with its surroundings and to reduce the perceptible threshold between park and arts district.

A second “mountain” is to follow

Visitors to Shanghai can already decide for themselves whether this effect has been achieved – at least as far as the first part of the “1000 Trees” complex is concerned. After all, even though it will not be officially opened until 2020, it already looks like a finished project. However, it will be some time before the second “mountain” is completed.

Trees that grow heavenwards from the facade... (Photo: Qingyan Zhu)
Trees that grow heavenwards from the façade…

...aim to provide an oasis in the densely populated area. (Photo: Qingyan Zhu)
…aim to provide an oasis in the densely populated area.

Right now, the project looks like an enormous biotope. 25,000 plants – 46 different species in all – are being transferred here from Chongming Island, northeast of Shanghai. Much of these are evergreen and will continue to adorn the building all year round. This green vision is underscored by the grey-green granite that Heatherwick selected for the façades.

Highlight in the arts district

“1000 Trees” is a new, additional highlight in arts district M50 – formerly the textile industry district. In the first part of the project, shops and restaurants, offices, event spaces and art galleries are being built over ten floors.

Studio Heatherwick's plans also extend to creating parks and reshaping the shore zone. (Photo: Qingyan Zhu)
Studio Heatherwick’s plans also extend to creating parks and reshaping the shore zone.

Hundreds of pillars were designed as plant pots in which trees are rooted.(Photo: Qingyan Zhu)
Hundreds of pillars were designed as plant pots in which trees are rooted.

The Heatherwick architects have announced that the second phase will be larger with a more diverse programme. Accordingly, this second “mountain” will include a long public shore zone and a large park measuring 12,000 m² with a jogging track, sculpture garden and spaces for outdoor events. The two tracts of the megaproject are to be connected by a passenger bridge, a tunnel and a loading zone on the ground floor.

Graffiti on the Heatherwick project

The first part of the spectacular construction will be showcasing art even before it opens. This is because Studio Heatherwick has been working together with local and international graffiti artists on the design of the smooth end of the complex that is visible from the street: large, colourful wall paintings are now emblazoned on the areas between recessed windows of various sizes. The inside of the building gets its natural light from extensive glass surfaces and a number of high atria that are combined with outside terraces.

"1000 Trees" as seen from the streeet: flat but colourful. (Photo: Qingyan Zhu)
“1000 Trees” as seen from the street: flat but colourful.

Graffiti artists designed the back of the "tree mountain". (Photo: Qingyan Zhu)
Graffiti artists designed the back of the “tree mountain”.

Only time will tell how the trees fare in their new home on the façade of a large-scale urban project.

However, the basic idea that influenced Studio Heatherwick’s concept is undeniably forward-looking: when more and more people live together in a very small space, there is a very real need for oases. “1000 Trees” aims to provide Shanghai with such an oasis. And this is by no means the only Heatherwick project that strives to bring living greenery to cities. At the time of writing, a gigantic arbour is also being built in Tokyo. The feeling of nature aims to help the residents of this megacity to feel more relaxed.

Text: Elisabeth Schneyder
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Photos: Qingyan Zhu