Heatherwick Studio’s 1,000 trees open in Shanghai

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The first section of the 1000 Trees plant development, designed by the studio of British designer Thomas Heatherwick, has officially opened in Shanghai, China.


Described as “the Hanging Gardens of Shanghai in Babylon,” the mixed-use development consists of up to 1,000 pillars, each with a tree planted atop. It was designed by Heatherwick for developer Tian An.

The first phase of development is now open

The first phase of 1,000 trees opened with a lighting ceremony on December 22 in the Putuo district of Shanghai after eight years of development. A full set of images from the project are expected to be released later this month.

It is located next to the city’s M50 arts district and a public park. Comprised of two mountain-like peaks, the development will span 300,000 square meters and include restaurants, museums and galleries, as well as a number of historic buildings, when completed.

Heatherwick Studio 1000 Tian An Trees Project
Large planters with trees cover mixed-use development of 1,000 trees

“It will become the brightest ‘pearl’ along the 42-kilometer-long Suzhou Creek in downtown Shanghai,” Song Shengli, deputy director of Putuo’s advertising department, said in a statement.

Heatherwick’s design for the development sees the columns that provide structural support to the building transformed into decorative planters each containing a handful of trees.

“We see the planters as natural extensions of the columns, almost like a sprout that has passed through three levels of parking, eight levels of retail, then blossomed all the way to the roof to blossom,” Lisa Finlay, partner by Heatherwick Studio. Dezeen said in 2019.

Inside the pillars is a hidden sprinkler system to keep the trees healthy. Over 70 different tree species were used for the 1000 trees project.

Concrete buildings with tree planters in Shanghai
The development includes restaurants and museums. The photo is of Tian’an 1000 trees.

A second phase of the project, a taller structure that will feature hanging gardens, is under construction and will open in two years, according to the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government. A closed connecting bridge, a tunnel and a drop off on the ground floor will connect the two “mountains”.

Both parts of the development are located on the site of a former flour factory, part of which has been incorporated into the new complex, including an old bell tower which will now serve as a tourist lift.

“The goal was (to have) a warm and lively structure with a harmonious relationship between man and nature, rather than a concrete mammoth,” said Huang Jingsheng, general manager of marketing for the project.

Another Heatherwick project featuring columns covered with plants, Little Island, opened in New York City in May this year.

The designer also recently unveiled plans for a mixed-use development in Nottingham, UK, which would see the studio retain and rehabilitate the surroundings of a partly demolished shopping center.

The photograph is by Qingyan Zhu, unless otherwise noted.


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