Heatherwick Studio Unveils Design for New Shopping District in the Ancient City of Xi’an, China
Heatherwick Studio has revealed the design of a new shopping district in the historic city of Xi’an in Shaanxi, China. The proposal aims to highlight the city’s rich heritage of ceramic-making and, through this, to create a sensory experience for visitors in opposition to the restricted act of online shopping. Spanning over 1115,000 square meters, the development features a mixture of functions, from offices, apartments, and a hotel, to a variety of green spaces, rooftop terraces, gardens, and a sunken terrace, all doubling as social spaces. The project is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2024.
Aiming to move away from the image of the large monolithic commercial space, the project breaks down in scale, combining smaller buildings with interconnecting spaces, taking cues from the shape of traditional nesting tables. This creates a complex and dynamic image, with a series of open terraces and gathering spaces woven throughout the design. Additionally, a variety of local plant species brings life into the district.
Viewed from a distance, the district is defined by the distinctive shape of its rooftops inspired by the Chinese temples of Xi’an. From a closer distance, at street level, the varying levels and interlocking volumes provide various vantage points, with a central plaza created to become the main gathering space for visitors. From an even closer distance, the use of local materials adds texture and rhythm, creating a sensory experience. The buildings are clad in different patterns of ceramics inspired by the Terracotta Army, one of the most iconic collections of ancient sculptures in the world.
The design team at Heatherwick Studio worked with local makers to produce original and distinctive ceramic patterns. The design process used also included the creation of small-scale models and large-scale visual mock-ups built on-site to test out the various components of the buildings and get a better idea of the ways in which the buildings will be experienced by visitors and passers-by.
This new district in Xi’an explores how we can create variety and a sense of discovery and delight within a new large-scale urban development. Using natural materials, stepped terraces, and an enveloping landscape we can create a city within a city merging retail, residential, office, cultural, and leisure uses into one distinct place. – Mat Cash, group leader and partner at Heatherwick Studio