1000 Trees bloom in Shanghai

A modern-day marvel to rival any ancient wonder


1000 TREES

A wonder of the modern world to rival the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon, 1000 Trees rises like two tree-covered mountains from Shanghai’s urban form. Located along the banks of Suzhou Creek, 1000 Trees spans a site of more than 300,000 sqm in size.

Inspired by China’s majestic Huanghsan Mountains, the two hills of 1000 Trees complement the existing landscape of Suzhou Creek. This green oasis in the city brings together a mix of retail, hospitality and commercial uses, creating a unique ecological and human experience.

At a glance

  • Client
    Tian An China Investments Company Limited
  • Services
    Commercial Success
  • sector
    Mixed Use
  • Location
    Shanghai, China

Balancing buildable, affordable and beautiful

Heatherwick Studio’s vision for the colossal complex is captured in its name. Hundreds of structural columns of staggered height rise from an undulating form, each capped with a planter. The planters, a natural extension of the columns, collectively contain more than 20,000 plants.

The proposed formwork for the columns needed to be buildable, affordable and beautiful – a balance not easy to achieve on a complex project of this size and scale. RLB’s team provided several rounds of investigation into different methods, materials and their cost impacts. After experimentation with timber and fabric formwork, the project team finally settled on steel moulds with silicone strips to achieve the desired effect.

We are proud of this first collaboration with Heatherwick Studio and our role bringing imagination to life. We have gone through numerous feasibility studies and materials selection processes, with the team embracing innovative technology to deliver a design that was both beautiful and met budget.
Iris Lee, Director, RLB

Bringing imagination to life is not always easy. With patience, persistence and a passion for detail, RLB’s team sourced specialist contractors and material suppliers, trialled and tested a range of approaches, and found a practical solution that met the architect’s vision and the client’s budget.

A fresh take on rich materials

On the north side of the development, the cascade of tiered gardens is 1000 Trees’ crowning glory. The concrete columns and planters – dubbed ‘life pillars’ by the project team – boast a rich materiality and handmade-like finish, that is reminiscent of sedimentary rock, while the grey and green-granite façade, rises like a mountain from the earth.

Enriching the urban experience

The southern side of the mountain appears to be sliced open, revealing a contrasting art wall lined with billboards and street art created in collaboration with local and international graffiti artists. This echoes the nearby M50 arts precinct and enriches the urban experience.

  • 20,000
    plants rise from columns
  • 30
    tall columns drip fed by AI-powered irrigation
  • 100
    tower to be completed in the second phase

Livable spaces that lift the spirits

The first stage of 1000 Trees brings together nature and urban amenity with spectacular success. The development’s second phase, featuring a 100-metre-high mountain to complement the existing 60-metre existing structure, will involve more landscaping, a 900-metre-long riverside public space and a 12,000 sqm landscaped park and sculpture garden. Through visionary design and impeccable execution, 1000 Trees will provide an open, organic and harmonious place.

High technology meets high expectations

Many of the materials and technologies embraced during the design and construction of 1000 Trees were not commonplace in China at the time. Harnessing the power of 3D printing and artificial intelligence meant intricate parts could be produced to meet or even exceed our client’s demands. The result? A tree-lined mountain that lifts the standards for innovative design and lifts the spirits of Shanghai’s urban denizens.


Project photos by “1000 Trees”