Qiantan by Benoy


After over a decade of development at Qiantan, Qin Pang, chief designer of the Qiantan Central Business District’s concept plan, is full of pride following the growth and improvement of the area. Here, to celebrate National Day and the opening of Taikoo Li Qiantan, one of the core commercial centres in the area, Qin looks back at the initial development and design stages of Qiantan.

In 2012, three design firms, including Benoy, were invited by Lujiazui Group to participate in an international competition for the planning and design of the Qiantan Central Business District. At that time, Qiantan had already gone through a round of international planning competition. There was already a detailed plan for the entire area, developed by the Shanghai Academy of Urban Planning and Design, with a major road network, development volume and other basic indicators in place.

The scope of our role was to draw up a proposal for a core area of roughly 1.8 million square metres of commercial office space and hotels. At the time, this area was referred to in the design brief as the Five Star Intercontinental Centre. Back then, Qiantan was just a piece of open levelled land. There was almost nothing there, except for the Shanghai Oriental Sports Centre and a temporary facility housing the Qiantan Command Centre (location of Lot 16 today).

Although it only took 20 minutes to drive there from Shanghai ICC, the area still felt relatively remote. However, at the kick-off meeting, Lujiazui Group expressed their ambition to develop this area into another CBD, an upgraded version of Central Lujiazui. At that time, ‘CBD’ was already the closest term to describe the ideal urban core business district, and the client was obviously leveraging its experience of Central Lujiazui for reference.

Compared with other CBDs that focus solely on commercial office space and hotels, the planning of Qiantan incorporated additional dimensions, such as residential features.Initially, the detailed plan for the core area of Qiantan contained a series of iconic towers, configured in a circle around the turn of Yaoti Road. There were commercial podium constructions arranged around each tower, which were cut up into fragmented lots by the radial road network.

The rest of the office buildings were also designed and arranged on secondary roads to form an arch around the central towers. However, we felt this relatively conventional visual planning was not aligned with the expectations of Lujiazui Group, and we agreed this could be the opportunity for a breakthrough intervention. Our understanding of a commercial district, simply put, was to provide convenient, human-scale space at the near-ground level – a space that welcomes people and encourages them to feel at home.

This vision requires the commercial features of the core district to be relatively open, to create a cavernous public space that draws you in, and to be functional rather than exhibitionary. It should be able to absorb people like a sponge absorbs water, and entice them to stay. Therefore, in the specific design, the so-called iconic towers were moved to the secondary roads. Other towers were lined up sequentially to make space in the central area for a high-density, low-plot ratio commercial district at the interchange of three subway lines.

These changes made it easier to accommodate the setback and green landscaping requirements, connecting a series of human-scale squares for a circular traffic flow. With this as the entry point, other problems were readily overcome. After we carefully resolved the basic technical issues of hierarchical connection and feature placement, we submitted our proposal by the deadline, at the end of April 2012. I paid close attention to the judges’ reaction during our presentation, but the leaders of Lujiazui, the district leaders, and various experts all kept straight faces and showed no emotion.

I was apprehensive; our display board was also the smallest of the competition and almost lost among the other display boards. This made me frustrated; we had strictly followed the guidelines and kept our print-out to A0 size, while another company had put two sheets of extended A0 paper together and made a large standing image, which appeared tall and upright from a distance. Their clear and imposing image seemed more in line with the grandeur of a CBD.

Following our proposal submission, the result of the competition remained unannounced for several weeks. We returned to our work on other design projects. Then, one day in June, I was contacted by Lujiazui again; they asked us to deepen the design we had submitted for the competition. For a fee. I smiled, thinking to myself, “This must mean we’ve won.” After more than a month of work, we finished another version with deepened design in line with the new conditions and constraints.

Within the new design, which retained our original concept of a core commercial district, we subdued the circular platform connection, optimised the road network, and refined the indicators. Once submitted, the updated proposal was announced as the first prize winner and the concept plan for implementation. The deepened design scheme, developed in cooperation with the Shanghai Academy of Urban Planning and Design, forms the detailed plan in front of you today.

Qiantan began to develop rapidly. After one year, the road network has been basically completed. And after the conclusion of our planning work, I had the honour of taking the lead on the architectural and interior design work for Shimao Phase I on Lot 15 and L+mall on Lot 21, contributing to Qiantan’s development from numerous angles. After that, with the rapid construction progress of the Shimao Phase I, II, and III projects, Qiantan quickly took shape, followed by Wellington, Square Nine, Tishman Speyer, Qiantan Centre, and the Shangri-La Hotel. Source and images Courtesy of Benoy.