The Roof | Bold. Biophilic. Identity

Unlike the hustle and bustle of contemporary Shanghai, the Li’long streets intrinsically immerse people into a slow-paced environment at human scale. The designers were deeply inspired by the linear corridors framed with vivid red brick and beige walls, paired with an abundance of potted and cascading plantings. The DNA of the Li’long has been contextually extracted and intricately stitched into the project at every opportunity, to form a place equally full of diverse forms of life and people optimising the prospect for co-existing with nature on multiple levels. The spirit of the project is defined by the living façades, sky decks, and sky gardens, with plants everywhere, at all heights and depths. Flowers, shrubs, trees, and draping flora –– the whole place is sprinkled with traces of plants! The Roof has added charm to the city with such a special vertical greenery project that works vertically and horizontally at both human and neighborhood scale, forming an extraordinary visual and spatial experience.

Surrounded by vibrant commercial spaces, lifestyle and cultures, the design is respectful to the scale of the surrounding urban context, yet outstanding in the depth of detail and uniqueness it brings to the area. Embracing the traditional characteristics and qualities of the Li’long, the most significant point of identity of the project is the living façade elevations. Across the architecture there is a total of ten façades. On the façades, there is horizontal arrangements and clusters of planting, each cluster is a collection of curated species, combined of shrubs and draping plants, suitable to its climate conditions that create an ever-changing seasonal display from the atrium to the outer façades. The integration of the living façade has strongly encouraged wildlife and pollinators into the heart of a dense urban environment, which creates a harmonious place for people and nature. Positioned as an iconic project of contemporary office and commercial hub, it invites visitors and office workers into a richness of greenery both from within and outside of the space. At the top of the building, two roof gardens with gathering spaces generously planted with trees open out to the sky, creating a shared terrace with an open view to an impressive urban skyline. Sky decks on selected floors provide another immersive, cool and welcoming space that acknowledges the dense urban position yet allows people to walk in nature appreciating the diverse forms of life. These are true places for connections and moments of tranquility for people and nature.

Here landscape and architecture blur the conventional inter-disciplinary lines with a bold and vivid response to culture, climate, and context that explore what a commercial office complex can be. One of the key challenges of this project was developing the ‘pots’ and creating a testing model. To strategically design the façades, the design team conducted critical analysis to determine various climate conditions of each elevation to curate suitable, resilient, and aesthetically pleasing planting palettes to achieve the highest sustainable outcomes. At the early stages of the design, the team collected data on solar, wind, sun and other micro-climate related factors that covers both the building and surroundings, which was analysed digitally in depth and later became an important matrix for plant species selection. The team and collaborators together then integrated a sensor, drip irrigation, drainage and control maintenance system within the design to fulfill fundamentals for the plant growth on the façades. Prototyping methods such as one to one scale mock-ups and multiple pre-planting were simultaneously used to test, study, and refine the characteristic and challenging design. All these efforts have created a harmonious environment that in summer months allows the planting to grow into full leaf and at maximum height, providing layers of shade interior which helps to reduce solar exposure and interior temperatures whilst naturally purifying the air. In colder seasons, where species shed their leaves, natural light is maximized while the soil assists to create an additional layer of thermal buffer against the cold air.

With considerations from the perspective of sustainability, it has effectively allowed people of all ages to enjoy these pleasant outdoor spaces, having delightful moments within nature to the greatest extent. Aside from the vertical façades, the ground level planting that sits below the finished pavement level has turned the entire site into a sponge. It collects and detains storm water temporarily for re-use in the landscape and façade irrigation system, in addition to recharging ground water. To ensure the realization of the sustainable storm water system while engaging people with nature, steel grates were installed in the planted areas, enabling people to walk through and host activities.

The Roof has resulted in an unforgettable place of delight within downtown Shanghai and creates a resilient and equitable human place that lifts the spirit with wonder. It provides a design solution that defines a new perspective of contemporary urban experience, a biophilic office and commercial environment that draws on the characteristics of Li’long, embracing the thought-provoking characteristics of its surrounds. As increasing pace and more rapid interactions in the urban setting add stress and are proven to lead to the prevalence of some mental disorders, the biophilic public environment is not only visually pleasing, but allows people to slow down, the community to celebrate, and nature to thrive, enhancing the overall wellbeing of the neighborhood through an innate connection to nature. The Roof has indeed promotes meaningful coexistence with landscape in cities.

Landscape Design Team: Stephen Buckle (Studio Director of ASPECT Studios), Sam Xu, Derek Chen, Yan Luo, Suki Ye, Alex Cunanan de Dios, Phannita Phanitpharadon

Client – CIFI Group Co., Ltd.(Shanghai)

Architecture offices involved in the design: Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Lighting: Lumia lighting design Ltd


Contractor: Trions Landscape Design Engineering Co., Ltd

Photography: Dong Liang (winter), 10 Studio (winter), Stephen Buckle (summer), G-Aart design (sky deck and interior)

Rendering: ASPECT Studios

Project location: 458 Ma‘Dang road, Huang’Pu district, Shanghai, China

Design year: 2019

Year Built: 2020




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