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Heatherwick and Foster unwrap Bund Finance Centre in Shanghai

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Foster + Partners and Heatherwick Studio have completed The Bund Finance Centre, a major new mixed-use development on Shanghai’s waterfront

According to the practices, the 420,000m², eight-building project has been designed to be highly permeable for pedestrians, conceived as a point of connection between the old town and the new financial district. Occupying a prominent site on the Bund, the buildings define the ‘end point’ to Shanghai’s most famous street.

Two 180-metre landmark towers sit on the south side of the site, while the buildings facing the waterfront are staggered in height to relate in scale to the grand 19th-century landmarks along the Bund.

At the heart of the scheme is a flexible arts and cultural centre, home to the Fosun Foundation, which combines exhibition and events halls with a performance venue, inspired by the open stages of traditional Chinese theatres.

The buildings themselves house premium offices with a hotel, a cultural centre and a wide variety of luxury retail spaces, arranged around a landscaped public plaza. The retail spaces are vertically layered with boutiques, concept stores for international brands, a luxury shopping mall and restaurants, all designed with a palette of crafted stone and bronze details. The edges of each volume are made of richly textured, hand-crafted granite and become slimmer as they rise, giving the impression of solidity at the base and transparency at the top.

The social focus of the scheme is the cultural centre, conceived as a platform for international arts and cultural exchange, as well as a place for brand events, product launches and corporate functions. The structure is encircled by a moving veil, which adapts to the changing use of the building and reveals the stage on the balcony and views towards Pudong. Developed in collaboration with local engineer Tongji University, the façade is a organised along three tracks and made up of layers of 675 individual magnesium alloy ‘tassels’ - said to be a reference to the traditional Chinese bridal headdress. The tassels range in length from around 2 metres to 16 metres so that as each track independently moves, the veil rotates with the tassels overlapping, producing different visual effects and levels of opacity.

1960 fp620965

1960 fp620965

South elevation – with/without veil

Architect’s view

The opportunity to make something new in this prominent location that had formerly been the river gateway to Shanghai’s Old Town was extraordinary. With a project that would create 420,000m² of space, we felt a great duty to look for fresh ways to connect with China’s amazing built heritage and make a meaningful public place for thousands of people to work and come together. Influenced by the materiality and scale of the existing historic buildings along the Bund we have built a series of simple office, shopping and cultural buildings that combine high performance glazing systems with hand carved stone building frames. These structures in turn surround new public spaces and speak to the heritage of the historical Bund buildings.

Thomas Heatherwick, founder, Heatherwick Studio

The Bund Finance Centre creates a pivotal connection between the old town and the new financial district. Developing the massing strategy for the buildings was an interesting challenge, in terms of relating to the context of old and new architecture, reflecting the scale of the waterfront and the character of the historic quarters.

The cultural centre is an optimum blend of craft and technology. It is inspired by traditional Chinese weaving, while incorporating the latest cutting-edge technology that helps withstand earthquakes, typhoons and severe weather. Its unique form provides a memorable and extraordinary experience for visitors, while the illuminated stage and the motion of the moving veil creates a unique backdrop to the theatre of city life.

Gerard Evenden, head of studio and senior executive partner, Foster + Partners

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