Following eight years of design, development, and construction, work is nearing completion on Safdie Architects’ latest project in China: Raffles City Chongqing, a vibrant complex, which combines office, residential, hotel, retail, and recreational facilities across a 22.7-acre site, embedded within the densely developed Yuzhong district.
Safdie Architects, together with P&T Group International Ltd. and CQADI with Williams, Asselin, Ackaoui & Associates as landscape architects, has transformed the city’s historic Chaotianmen district with a vibrant and three-dimensionally integrated mixed-use development.
Chongqing is one of the world’s fastest-growing and densest cities with a greater metropolitan population of over 30 million.
The Crystal, a 300m-long horizontal skyscraper that spans across four towers, recently opened in its first phase, unveiling a landscaped public observatory with a glass-bottom, cantilevered, open air viewing deck.
Once completed, the Crystal will house over 10,000 sq. m. of amenities, including multiple dining and event spaces, a hotel lobby, and a members-only clubhouse with an infinity pool.
Additional programming, including the hotel, was opened to the public in August, continuing the development’s phased opening which began in September 2019. Raffles City Chongqing is set to be fully operational by the end of 2020.
Raffles City Chongqing is developed by CapitaLand, one of Asia’s largest real estate diversified groups.
Based and listed in Singapore, CapitaLand has over 25 years of experience operating in China.
Sitting at the confluence of China’s two major rivers, the Yangtze and Jialing, Raffles City Chongqing has become a new symbol for the city, with its design recalling the site’s historic role as an imperial city gate and maritime trading post.
The project continues the firm’s exploration of vertical neighborhoods, livable urban communities, and thoughtfully connected public spaces with the Crystal marking the next evolution in the firm’s conceptualization of the ‘SkyPark,’ first developed for Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
Embedded within the city’s densely developed grid, Raffles City Chongqing—which combines office, residential, hotel, serviced apartments, retail, and recreational facilities—has sparked revitalization around its waterfront site.
Located at the heart of one of the world’s fastest growing cities in an area with limited public parks, the development provides over 30,000 sq. m. of public space including outdoor and community gathering spaces. In addition to a new multi-modal transit hub, the project has significantly improved pedestrian accessibility within the district.
Among these improvements, the development integrates multiple access points aligned with the city’s undulating topography, an innovative traffic diversion system, and a new public walkway that cuts through the five levels of the retail mall to provide a direct connection between the podium park and Chaotianmen Square.
At a height of 250m, the Crystal is a fully programmed horizontal skyscraper housing over 10,000 sq. m. of amenities that draws the public into the upper levels of the development.
In May 2020, the Crystal’s observatory garden and viewing platform opened to the public with a glass-bottom, cantilevered, open-air viewing deck. The 300m-long structure features amenities that include dining, bar and event spaces, a hotel lobby, and a members-only clubhouse with a 50m-long infinity pool.
Weighing 12,000 tons and enclosed by a concertina structural frame with an integrated curtain wall comprised of 3,000 pieces of glass and 5,000 aluminum panels, the Crystal’s gardens and amenities are open to visitors year-round, despite the region’s extreme climatic range.
Metal panels on the west-facing surfaces and glass on the east-facing surfaces afford guests and visitors natural light in the morning and shade from the sun in the afternoon. Throughout the day, internal temperatures are regulated with the help of a shading system that can be tuned depending on external climate conditions.
Adding a new icon to the dynamic city skyline, Raffles City Chongqing is composed of eight towers in total, with six southern towers rising to 250m and two northern towers to 350m.
The design evokes the city’s rich maritime history with the north elevation of the towers curved to recall the silhouette of an armada’s sails and the crossbeam of the horizontal sky conservatory echoing the arch of the historic Chaotianmen city gate.
Five towers are dedicated for residential use, including one of the northern towers, making it the tallest residential building in China.
The second 350m-tall tower houses office space up to the level of the skybridge, where it then transitions to a hotel. The remaining towers include a dedicated office tower and one mixed-use tower, with offices and serviced apartments.
The north side of the towers features a “sail” screen that provides uniformity to the façade while serving as a shade for the residents, office workers and hotel guests.
To provide a sense of orientation with the surrounding city, the three main gallerias of the mall align with and are a conceptual continuation of the principal north-south streets of the city.
Set between the towers, the gallerias create logical interior ‘streets’ that run through the retail podium towards Chaotianmen Square. Each of these interior streets are generously endowed with natural light from continuous skylights that offer views of the towers above.
Two additional gallerias run east to west and provide visitors with views towards the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers. This system of gallerias, punctuated by the nodes at their intersection, allows visitors to orient themselves within the 235,000-sq. m. mall, which is one of the city’s largest.
The retail podium is topped with ‘Gateway Park,’ an expansive public park overlooking Chaotianmen Square. The new park provides the district with over 30,000-sq. m. of public spaces— equivalent to an area slightly larger than New York City’s Madison Square Park.
The design of Gateway Park, which takes inspiration from the city’s hilly terrain, comprises a network of green and open spaces that also feature public art commissions, including sculptures by Chinese artists Zheng Lu and Jian Xingtao, and a series of water features, including interactive fountains and pools along the public path from the city streets to the upper plaza, overlooking the Square.
The design also pays special attention to pedestrian accessibility throughout the site and its surrounding area.
Gateway Park at the podium level is accessed directly from the district’s higher elevation streets and connects to a straight staircase, reminiscent of the terraced stairs that are characteristic of the city, to provide a pedestrian link between the upper city and Chaotianmen Square. This new public walkway cuts through the five levels of the retail mall and connects to the Square.
“Chongqing is such an extraordinary city—in scale, population, and personality,” said Christopher Mulvey, Safdie Architects’ Managing Principal.
“The topography of the city creates opportunities for intimate pockets of public space at different elevations, stacked and stepped to overlook one another and the city beyond.”
“It’s the defining characteristic of Chongqing and one that we sought to build upon with Raffles City.”
Inherently site-specific, the design for over the 1.12 million sq. m., Raffles City celebrates the city’s history and unique character while accommodating its mountainous landscape and extreme climate.
As a result, Raffles City Chongqing has sparked renewed public and commercial interest in the area with its distinct offerings, which continue to propel Chongqing’s local economy including its burgeoning tourist industry.
Architects: Safdie Architects
Executive Architects: P&T Group International Ltd.
Local Architects: CQADI (Chongqing Architectural Design Institute)
Landscape Architects: Williams Asselin Ackaoui et associés AP.
Developers: CapitaLand Limited