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Case study 1: 1000 trees project

Case study 1: 1000 Trees Project


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Official name: 1000 Trees

Other Names: Shanghai Tree Mountain, Moganshan

Street Address: Moganshan Road, Shanghai, China


Design: Heatherwick Studio

Project Manager: Shanghai Jianke Engineering Consulting Co., Ltd.

Main Contractor: Shanghai Construction No.1 (Group) Co., Ltd.

Building Use: Residential, Commercial, (info needed)

Structure Type: Building

Status: Under Construction

Developer: Shanghai Triumphal Arch Development Co., LTD;

Tian An China Investments Co. Ltd.

Construction Start: 2014

Estimated completion: 2019

The first case study will look at a project by Heatherwick Studio, who has designed a mixed-use, 300″,000 square meter project in Shanghai next to the main arts district known as M50. The M50 arts district often juxtaposed with New York City’s SoHo district or Beijing’s 798 Art Zone. Heatherwick Studio was approached by local developers at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, after the introduction of the innovative UK Pavilion, also known as the Seed Cathedral, inspired and amazed observers, to discuss a plan for a plot of land next to the main arts district in Shanghai. The plot site is next to a public park, located 20 minutes away from downtown Shanghai next to the M50 arts district on the famous Moganshan Road and overlooking the Wusong (Suzhou) river, is split by a narrow strip of government property and is surrounded by concrete towers on three sides. It is located in Shanghai’s Putuo District, in between Jianan District to the east and Changning District to the west. The plot itself includes four conserved historical buildings, including the Fufeng and Fuxin flour factories, both of which are protected heritage buildings and were, at the time of operation, the first modern machine-operated flour mills in China.

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The overview of the design is conceived as a mountainous mixed-use plan intended and envisioned as a study in topography and not just another cluster of skyscrapers. What results from this vision is a plan for a series of tree covered buildings, peppered with around 1000 structural columns. The overall design is reminiscent of two tree covered mountains, where the large structural columns widen at the top to create massive planters for 1000 trees. Planning permissions were granted for two conventional shopping mall blocks; however, the design broke down those blocks into smaller pieces in order to blend in with the surroundings. “The integrated planting acts as a natural balancing element and the building’s edges are lowered to minimize the impact where it meets the art district and park, reducing the discernible threshold between them.” (Heatherwick Studios). The design is meant to convey a connection with, and extension of nature that looks to a future where buildings work with, and not against nature. The neighboring park was taken into account with the design and 1000 Trees acts as a visual extension of the park, which borders one corner of the plot and also integrates the three heritage buildings already inside the plot. The main design challenge was to relate the building to the park and M50 arts district while fulfilling the client’s requirement of a large, dense development and that would generate interest at the human scale. The park was felt as the glue that held all of the different elements of the building and neighboring areas together. Early studies and trial designs suggested that a project of this scale would require at least 800 structural columns which are normally hidden within the building, yet in this case they emerge from the building and articulate its mass more finely. The structural supports are the defining feature of the design, sprouting from the building to hold the 1000 trees and other plant life, and the entire structure grows out from those supports. Outdoor interaction and the creation of better work spaces through connections with the outdoors was another goal of the design and to achieve this aim, 400 terraces with trees and plant beds were designed on the stepped sides of the building, creating a 3D forest effect meant to encourage outdoor meetings, recreation and a sense of community togetherness. The building will total nine floors and a three-story basement.

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The building is not yet finished but Shanghai local residents are already calling the building project their version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The support columns are made of reinforced concrete filled into preproduced forms to ensure the special design characteristics of the columns. The tree planters at the top of the columns are also concrete but not reinforced with steel. According to the drawings, there is no drainage visible for the planters, however it is not necessary because of an outflow exit at the bottom of the planters. The trees are anchored to the planters, because the root system will not be strong or developed enough to hold itself to the structure, especially for the first few years after installation. It would be a very unfortunate incident if high winds (especially at a site so close to a waterway) carried a tree out of a planter and onto the ground in the first few years after the buildings opening.

Other Points of Interest

Besides the design considerations of creating an extension of the park and the focus on social interaction of the building residents and purveyors there are several other notable points of interest for this project. The focus on greenery creates a number of important advantages, that may or may not have been intended when the design was made. The shading effect of the trees will make the buildings and terraces under their cover noticeably cooler, especially in the summer months. The trees and added shrubbery add a layer of protection from the high winds from being in close proximity to the river, as well as increasing the air quality of the surrounding environment through two stages: by creating a buffer from particulate pollution that travels from the downtown urban areas; and by absorbing water soluble pollution from the city’s vehicle traffic. The trees and shrubs also provide a buffer from the ambient city noise, which will make the living and shopping spaces much quieter. The people in the surrounding areas, as well as the shoppers, workers, and residents will benefit psychologically due to the green and relaxing surroundings, making the finished building a very pleasant place to live, work, spend leisure time in or be around.

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