Spanning 11.2 hectares, COHL Foshan Uni-Mall provides new opportunities for people to interact with the landscape, making it unlike any other destination in China. Located in the Financial High-tech Zone of Foshan City, Guangdong Province, China, COHL Foshan Uni-Mall consists of two major areas which are Uni-Mall, a retail development and La Cite, its residential counterpart.
A collaboration between ASPECT’s Shanghai and Sydney studios, the design establishes the landscape as the major attraction for the people of Foshan and neighboring cities in Guangdong Province.
The public domain is constructed from concrete, local granite and features natural green elements, such as indigenous planting of shrubs, trees and palms which provides additional shade to the play and resting areas. It has created a people-orientated environment providing multiple opportunities for engagement with the landscape in a number of different ways. The primary attraction is an integrated children’s water play park, which is operated by COHL and free for the entire city. It is a major draw card for family and children to enjoy the space while finding relief from the high temperatures in South China.
Despite the city location of this project, which sits above the entry of a metro station and at the junction of two major roads, a sense of peace has been achieved through unique landscape design. ASPECT Studios has created an integrated place where people can enjoy the ambience of living in the city as well as the relaxing and tranquil environment it can provide through well-conceived design.
The series of functional spaces comprising lobby gardens, landscape corridors, children’s play, the lounge and entry gardens, with the integration of contemporary urban landscape style and art, have built a sense of belonging. This encourages recreation across generations, including play, relaxation and shared social activities in a high-quality outdoor city space with well-selected plantings, unique water features, beautifully-crafted furniture and warm lighting. The design ambition was to create undeniably social space, a place people want to spend time in, driven by the betterment of our cities through an experiential approach to improving shared space and public life.
As a diverse project, the site was extremely complex, providing a range of challenges from day one. The first challenge ASPECT Studios faced as Landscape Architects was to convince the client of the benefits of spending a larger portion of the development budget on the “public domain”, a small area that was functional and as the main attraction as opposed to a landscape dotted with eye candy. It was fortunate that the client’s leadership team was willing to engage in dialogue to create a landscape with a difference in China.
During the design process, the client was reassured that construction in concrete would achieve the best outcome for everyone through discussions and reviews over several months. Options for alternatives were also provided in case of any issues with concrete. Vigorous debate took place over the water play equipment being fabricated locally or imported and the use of expensive water filtration systems to ensure the safety of the community. ASPECT Studios guided the client along a journey of child safety and best practice in design was critical to ensuring that everyone understood the difficulties and risks associated with the type of environment being designed.
Securing a contractor with experience in small-scale high-quality concrete construction in China is not easy. The client was referred to a contractor Newhome Technology, who ASPECT Studios had successfully worked with before. This initiated an extended process of discussion and culminated in the client appointing Newhome Technology. Prior to construction, the contractor visited Sydney and met with Kate Luckraft (Studio Director, Sydney) on site at Darling Quarter to gain an in-depth understanding of the design aspiration and the concrete finishes required due to the difficulty to maintain a consistent color and finish across the large site.
The construction process required a great deal of interaction, support from within the studio in detailed drawings and an extensive number of site visits by Chris Razzell (Director), Susan Gao (Studio Director), Damian Holmes (Chief Technical Officer) and Sean Xiao (Team Leader) to work with and assist the contractors.
COHL Foshan changes the approach to urban landscape design in China and is a family-oriented destination that provides financial uplift for retailers and a memorable experience for families and the broader public.
The generous green and multi-functional open spaces not only provide an opportunity to positively change people’s behaviors and lives, they also act as the stimulus to hopefully have a positive influence on appropriate socially-based development throughout China.
Entrant office name: ASPECT Studios
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Other design firms involved:
RTKL Architectural Design Consulting (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (Architecture Design for Retail)
Shenzhen CUBE Architecture Designing Consultants Ltd. (Architecture Design for Residential)
Project location: Foshan City, Guangdong Province, China
Design year: 2013 – 2015
Year Built: 2016