RANA The Cohabitat Co. (RANA) collaborated with Renzo Piano Building Workshop on the landscape design for the mega urban complex OōEli, which serves as the headquarters for the leading designer brand fashion house, JNBY. Opened in October 2020, the project took almost 8 years to complete. The overall design drew inspiration from an apple, where under the hard interface, it is a soft and rich core. The 60 acre urban infill project, the size of a small city, consists of 17 individual buildings with 10 acres of rooftops, arranged around a 130,000 sq ft protected central green plaza, designed to be an outdoor ‘urban living room’.
This was RANA’s first major project in China, and the team spent a great deal of time exploring the local culture, history, natural landscapes, and ecology of Hangzhou before commencing work. The RANA team took five trips to Hangzhou to gain an understanding of the countryside and the natural plant communities. The land informed the landscape design; the wetlands, tea fields and canopy trees provide the backdrop and character for the plantings. RANA worked with local growers to develop a plant list that met the design criteria and could be sourced and perform in the local climate, selecting more than 50 plant species, the vast majority native to China.
The OōEli landscape incorporates a dense tree canopy of native hardwoods and ground plane plantings that accentuate the architect’s striking axial, pedestrian-oriented site design. The use of both deciduous and evergreen species ensures visual interest and a lush canopy throughout the year. In autumn, the trees form a canopy of color, with a contrasting stripe of yellow along the main axis. The texture and color of bare branches in the winter months against glass and aluminum contrasts against the evergreen camphor’s positioned around the piazza. Spring emerges bright leaves and thousands of delicate green flowers creating dappled
shade on blossoming perennials and spring bulbs. The trees planted along all major paths within the park create a constant canopy of shade in the summer, while emphasizing the geometry of the park. The ground plane landscape is intended to have a wild and naturalistic beauty, buzzing with life. The RANA team was struck by the manicured appearance of built urban landscapes in Hangzhou. Despite China’s immense biodiversity, uncontrolled nature was sorely lacking in the urban environment. An exception was the stunning Xixi Wetland, which provided a striking contrast to the urban core of Hangzhou. We wanted our landscape design to stand out in the same way.
A series of sunken zen courtyards (shi-tang) host a variety of ornamental flowering trees and open, interactive terraced spaces that embody the themes of wind, water and space. Fall colors, winter form, spring growth and summer flowers coalesce to create a diversified aesthetic that sets each garden apart from the rest. Entrances from the street share the same botanical language to one another, where young birch trees were planted in tight groves, creating the sense of emerging into a successional forest.
Large specimen trees serve as landmarks, creating focal points for activity and facilitating gathering under their broad canopies. Their dramatic breadth and height define the piazza’s central space, drawing users from the site’s peripheral spaces.
In the piazza, a large water mirror over black granite provides a central focal point, adjacent to an outdoor entertainment space and art gallery. Subtle movements of nature are captured and recorded onto the reflecting water surface.
The inward courtyard facing facades feature extensive living walls and were designed to decrease energy loads for cooling, reduce light intensity, and improve interior comfort, all while strengthening the visual connection with the piazza and providing habitat and year-round seasonal interest to the exterior.
The greenery in the piazza extends upwards to cover the roofs of the buildings in the form of tea plantations. Alluding to Hangzhou’s Long Jing Mountain Tea Garden, the roofscapes were designed with sustainability in mind. These living roofs, planted with specimen tea plants, reduce rainwater runoff while the plantations actively reduce the heat island effect and improve microclimate. Carefully selecting from thousands of tea types, three were chosen for their strong adaptability to grow in varied conditions and their ability to stay green through different seasons, forming a distinctive plantation landscape that is both harvested and consumed.
The landscape design is intended to soften the monolithic masses of the buildings, creating a lush and inviting green courtyard in the core. The tea gardens evoke a mythical mountain landscape, floating in the clouds. The RANA team created an environment that is beautiful, healthy and shows an appreciation of nature. People work and live better, and are healthier when they can enjoy trees, water, and life.
Architecture offices involved in the design: Renzo Piano Building Workshop (Architect) in collaboration with Greentown Orient Architects (Hangzhou)
Project location: No. 398, Tianmushan Road, Xihu Qu Hangzhou 310005 China
Design year: 2013-2020
Year Built: Completed October 2020