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An architectural ode to Shanghai’s duality

By Retail4Growth Bureau | September 01, 2022

Kokaistudios shares details of their latest architectural project in Shanghai, transforming a twenty-year old shopping mall into a modern lifestyle destination, wherein the idea was to break up the mall’s boxy silhouette through seemingly floating pixels, and ensuring the new architecture complements its historic surroundings, opening new vistas and possibilities.

Kokaistudios’ recently completed architectural renovation project of CITIC SQUARE is a tribute to Shanghai city’s inherent duality. “With a futuristic aesthetic combining multimedia elements and some of today’s most sought-after brands, it sits seamlessly alongside one of the city’s best-preserved examples of traditional, historic lane housing,” says Kokaistudios.

Located in Jingan district on main thoroughfare Nanjing West Road in Shanghai, the transformed building’s pixel-inspired facade and carefully selected materials break the traditional ‘box’ shape to blur the boundaries between city and mall, public and private.

The challenge was that the mall lacked several of the elements demand by today’s lifestyle-led retail environment: flexible multimedia components; attractive outdoor spaces; and eye-catching interiors for high-profile, luxury F&B outlets. The task for Kokaistudios’ bring the mall up to date in terms of making it a destination shopping-hospitality experience, by reintegrating CITIC SQUARE into the fabric of Shanghai and opening up previously hidden vistas, and playing on scale to complement the mall’s layered urban context.  

Pixels are central to Kokaistudios’ design approach. Their interpretation is both literal - such as the mall’s transparent grid facade - as well as conceptual: individual units that come together create a cohesive whole.

Despite their contemporary connotations, the ‘pixels’ connect the mall to its historic urban context. Directly opposite is one of the city’s best-preserved lòngtáng: typical of Shanghai and dating from the early twentieth century, they are walled compounds of traditional lane housing, usually two- to three-storeys in height. CITIC SQUARE’s pixels facade create a scale in keeping with the older architecture opposite. The dialogue between old and new continues through the frontage’s materials of fully transparent glass panes, semi-opaque glass bricks, and UHPC concrete panel, informs Kokaistudios.

A network of gardens both sunken and floating further blur the boundaries between private and public space, CITIC SQUARE and the city of Shanghai. These include terraces atop each of the facade’s pixel windows, significantly enhancing stores’ attractiveness to shoppers by the unique views.  In an expansion of the mall’s footprint, a twin sunken garden has been installed on its eastern side, mirroring an existing one to the West. The intervention facilitates flow through CITIC SQUARE’s basement level which will focus predominantly on lifestyle. 

The renovation also shifts visitor flow from up and down, to through the space thanks to escalators at the mall’s two entrances, both of which have been configured to anticipate their likely demographic. Like a secondary circulation tracking that of shoppers, LED screens run throughout the atrium in an infinite loop.

“In order to stand out in Shanghai’s increasingly congested retail landscape, malls must move with the times. At the same time, these large-footprint buildings must be comprehensively and seamlessly incorporated into public spaces. Kokaistudios’ smart renovation of CITIC SQUARE achieves just this balance: now a fully flexible multimedia, lifestyle venue, it doesn’t dominate the Jingan skyline; rather it complements a rich, varied urban fabric,” sums up Kokaistudios.

Project Information

Project Name: CITIC SQUARE Renovation

Site: Shanghai, China

Client: CITIC SQUARE

Service Scope: Architecture Renovation+Interior Design

Grand Opening: Sep. 2022

Site area: 13,670 sqm

GFA: 34,500 sqm

Design Company: Kokaistudios

Chief Architects: Andrea Destefanis, Filippo Gabbiani

Architecture Design Director: Li Wei

Architecture Design Team: Muyun Zhao, Eva Maria Paz Taibo, Dongyin Li, Ru Chen

Interior Design Director: Rake Wang

Interior Design Team: Muyun Zhao, Ru Chen, Xiaowan Shen, Sara Zhang, Chenyu Huang

Photography & Video: Terrence Zhang

Text: Frances Arnold

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