Sino‐Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu

Format
Brief

City
Chengdu

Country
China

Metro Area
Chengdu

Project Type
Mixed Use

Location Type
Central Business District

Land Uses
Cinema
Event Space
Hotel
Office
Parking
Plaza
Religious Use
Restaurant
Retail
Spa
Supermarket

Keywords
Adaptive reuse
LEED Gold
Main street retail
pedestrian streets
ULI Global Awards for Excellence 2015 Winner

Site Size
18.25 acres
acres hectares

Date Started
2010

Date Opened
2014

A brief is a short version of a case study.

Sino‐Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu is a retail-driven mixed-use project that weaves old and new, global and local, low-rise and high-rise, and religious and commercial uses into a pedestrian-centered urban fabric within a growing central Chinese city. The 18.25-acre site includes more than 300 retailers within 1.14 million square feet of retail space, a 335,000-square-foot boutique hotel with 100 rooms and 42 serviced apartments, and a 1.3 million-square-foot, 47-story office tower—all wrapped around an ancient Buddhist temple, six adaptively reused heritage buildings, and three on-site plazas. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhood Development Gold-rated community brought over 110 new retailers to the market.

A bird’s-eye view shows the low scale of the 38-block retail area, with the hotel’s two towers at upper right. The U-shaped retail complex surrounds the ancient Daci Temple at center left. (Swire Properties)
A bird’s-eye view shows the low scale of the 38-block retail area, with the hotel’s two towers at upper right. The U-shaped retail complex surrounds the ancient Daci Temple at center left. (Swire Properties)

The Site

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is China’s seventh-largest metropolitan area with a population of 18 million. Its strategic location near China’s geographic center has made it a prime beneficiary of recent policy changes steering more investment from the country’s heavily urbanized coast to its interior: among Chinese cities, it has the tenth-fastest population growth, eighth-fastest job growth, and fifth-fastest income growth.

Historically known for its agricultural abundance, Sichuan has become an industrial powerhouse as improved infrastructure and lower costs draw manufacturers to western China. More than 200 of the Fortune Global 500 corporations have operations in Chengdu, and major exporters include Apple, Intel, and Texas Instruments. Chengdu also has nonstop flights to 50 foreign cities, and its giant panda research center is a destination for international tourists.

A historic courtyard house within the West Plaza (at right) has been renovated into a watch boutique. The 47-story Pinnacle One office tower is visible beyond it. (Chen Yao)
A historic courtyard house within the West Plaza (at right) has been renovated into a watch boutique. The 47-story Pinnacle One office tower is visible beyond it. (Chen Yao)

The 17.7-acre, roughly U-shaped site wraps around the 4.5-acre Daci Temple, a Buddhist monastery founded nearly 2,000 years ago. In the medieval era, it was China’s largest Buddhist monastery, with thousands of structures housing scholars from across Asia. The site is surrounded by many recently built high-rises, but also some apartment blocks and a few older low-rise lanes.

The site lies at the east end of Chunxi Road East, Chengdu’s principal pedestrianized high street, which has recently drawn global brands like Dior, H&M, Isetan, Prada, and Uniqlo. It is at the eastern edge of an area that Chengdu is actively redeveloping into a central business district. Just to its west is Chengdu International Finance Square, a recently completed 8.3 million-square-foot mixed-use complex with four towers above an eight-story, 2.3 million-square-foot enclosed shopping mall—an inwardly oriented podium design that has become commonplace in China. To the north of the site lies Dacisi Road, a major east–west arterial road named after the temple on the site, and one block west is Hongxing Road, a grade-separated north–south arterial.

A roof plan, highlighting the retail buildings and showing the hotel and office buildings off to the side. An underground retail arcade, with parking below, also fills much of the site—including the metro plaza. (The Oval Partnership)
A roof plan, highlighting the retail buildings and showing the hotel and office buildings off to the side. An underground retail arcade, with parking below, also fills much of the site—including the metro plaza. (The Oval Partnership)

The Idea

The awkwardly shaped site posed a major design challenge—namely, respectfully wrapping the elements of a major commercial center around the ancient temple and the six heritage buildings on the site. Pulling foot traffic into the site was another challenge, since only a narrow block-long finger of the site reached southwest from the site to the busy intersection of Chunxi and Hongxing roads, or more importantly to the metro station there. Furthermore, the project would have to distinguish itself amid an increasingly competitive marketplace of look-alike enclosed malls—including one within the world’s largest building by floor area.

The local government wanted development on the Daci Temple site to honor the site’s long history while also embodying principles of sustainable urban development. They turned to a 50/50 joint venture between Beijing-based Sino-Ocean Land and Hong Kong–based Swire Properties, two real estate companies with a shared heritage in shipping.

Many of the site’s narrow pedestrian lanes were retained from the site’s original street network, notably streets to and in front of the temple. This drawing also highlights the heritage buildings that were maintained on the site. (The Oval Partnership)
Many of the site’s narrow pedestrian lanes were retained from the site’s original street network, notably streets to and in front of the temple. This drawing also highlights the heritage buildings that were maintained on the site. (The Oval Partnership)

Swire drew inspiration from its first successful development on the mainland: Taikoo Li Sanlitun in Beijing. Rather than a fortress-like podium, Taikoo Li Sanlitun is an open-air, low-rise, walkable development that quickly became one of Beijing’s premier retail locations—drawing, for example, the Apple Store’s first location in China. Complementing the center’s two distinctive retail zones are a cinema, scores of restaurants, two event halls, and Opposite House, Swire’s first boutique hotel, all drawing people through its dynamic public realm. Its joint venture partner, Sino-Ocean Land, is one of Mainland China’s largest publicly listed developers, with extensive experience with complex construction projects.

A modestly scaled open-air retail center at the Daci Temple site could also complement the temple, rather than overwhelming it—harking back to the temple marketplaces that gave rise to many ancient Chinese cities. An open pedestrian circulation pattern with numerous small blocks on narrow lanes could combine serendipity with clarity, drawing people into and through the site between anchors like the temple and metro station. Instead of stacked atop a podium-style mall, the mixed-use components—an office tower and a boutique hotel—could anchor a far corner of the site. Six heritage buildings, the site’s existing network of human-scaled lanes, and plazas both old and new would provide additional structure to the site’s framework.

The minimalist architecture provides a dignified backdrop for colorful, multilevel storefronts. Public art, like Belinda Smith’s “Lunar Light” suspended at right, provides additional visual interest. (Chen Yao)
The minimalist architecture provides a dignified backdrop for colorful, multilevel storefronts. Public art, like Belinda Smith’s “Lunar Light” suspended at right, provides additional visual interest. (Chen Yao)
The “Fast Lane” weaving around the site provides a home for cosmopolitan fashion and global luxury brands. (Chen Yao)
The “Fast Lane” weaving around the site provides a home for cosmopolitan fashion and global luxury brands. (Chen Yao)

Planning and Design

A 700-foot-long subterranean shopping arcade, capped by a landscaped plaza that serves as a continuation of the Chunxi pedestrian mall past two other retail centers, draws customers into the site’s West Plaza (roughly at its southwest corner) from both the Chunxi Road metro station and from the pedestrian mall at ground level. Two heritage buildings stand at the top of the escalators leading up from the metro and underground mall.

The 38 blocks of retail beyond are arranged into two corridors that loop around the entire site, providing tailored co-tenancy opportunities to the fragmented merchandise niches in today’s marketplace. Cosmopolitan fashion and global luxury brands line the outer “Fast Lane” that begins at the metro entrance, complemented by lifestyle and leisure shops along an inner “Slow Lane” that envelops the temple walls.

Outdoor circulation does not limit Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu to just ground-level retail. A system of mezzanine walkways links the upper-story retail spaces, and the subterranean mall continues under the heart of the complex. Three anchors draw traffic to the lower level’s corners: an Olé supermarket at the northeast corner, the Palace Cinema at its southeast corner, and a Fangsuo Commune bookshop in the northeast corner that boasts 150,000 titles and its own lecture hall beneath dramatic angled columns. The upper-level spaces are well suited for the center’s 70-plus dining options, since they can accommodate seating in mezzanines, on rooftops and balconies, and along the walkways.

The West Plaza connects the site to a metro station 700 feet away, and to a prime pedestrian shopping street beyond. The underground shopping arcade underlying the site continues underneath the plaza. The century-old Guangdong Hall events venue, built as an opera house, is on the right. (Chen Yao)
The West Plaza connects the site to a metro station 700 feet away, and to a prime pedestrian shopping street beyond. The underground shopping arcade underlying the site continues underneath the plaza. The century-old Guangdong Hall events venue, built as an opera house, is on the right. (Chen Yao)

Three key plazas, each with its own focal points of heritage architecture and sculpture, provide destinations within the plan. The West Plaza at the metro entrance is bordered by Xin Lu, a historic courtyard house that now houses a Swatch boutique, as well as Guangdong Hall, built as an opera house in the early 20th century that now serves as an event venue with superior acoustics. The primary east–west passage leads from there to the East Plaza, defined by a fountain and punctuated by a restaurant within the old Majiaxiang monastery. In front of the temple gates at the site’s center, the Temple Plaza’s reflecting pool surrounds a tree-lined, 25-foot-tall ceremonial pagoda dating from the 15th century and terminates an ancient processional route that leads north to the temple.

The retail pavilions’ architecture drew inspiration from the traditional Sichuan architecture, with pitched roofs and deep overhangs, but is executed in minimalist glass and steel so that the buildings upstage neither the heritage buildings nor the boldly designed storefronts. Flagship storefronts extend over multiple levels and are accentuated with custom materials, like local green ceramic bricks for Starbucks Reserve, translucent backlit marble panels for Hermès, and bronze for Cartier.

Temple House, a boutique hotel with serviced apartments, stands at the southeast corner of the site. Its lobby and an art gallery are housed within 15 Bitieshi Street, a restored 19th-century municipal building; its arcaded courtyard provides a serene entrance for guests. Beyond the lobby is a courtyard of grassy hillocks bound by twin L-shaped towers, with opaque perforated masonry facing out and transparent glass facing in, that respectively house the hotel rooms and apartments. Between the hotel and the retail are two grand restored courtyard houses along Zhanghuali Lane, which house the hotel’s spa and teahouse. Temple House is the third location of the House Collective, a brand developed by Swire that complements its mixed-use properties with “refined, highly individual hotels.”

A historic courtyard building welcomes guests to the Temple House, a boutique hotel built and managed by the developer of Sino‐Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu. The hotel’s rooms and apartments are in the towers behind and to the left. (Chen Yao)
A historic courtyard building welcomes guests to the Temple House, a boutique hotel built and managed by the developer of Sino‐Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu. The hotel’s rooms and apartments are in the towers behind and to the left. (Chen Yao)

Pinnacle One, the property’s high-rise office tower, stands on a T-shaped site another block to the southeast, adjacent to busy Xiadong Street. Its design places the circulation cores at the ends of the tower, shielding the interior from harsh southern sun.

The entire development’s plan is certified as LEED for Neighborhood Development Gold. A computer model of airflow helped determine the buildings’ siting and orientation, improving microclimates and natural ventilation and shaping the passive-solar design of the buildings’ deep eaves and vertical louvers. A graywater system uses harvested rainwater not just for irrigation but also for toilets.

Performance

Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu had a soft opening in October 2014 and a grand opening in April 2015. By June, nearly 100,000 customers a day were visiting the site on weekends, and 70,000 on weekdays. The property was 87 percent leased, and commanded the highest retail rents and hotel room rates in its market—levels comparable with China’s gateway cities. Furthermore, no tenant-improvement incentives were offered, which is unusual for retail in China. Over 110 of the retailers were new to the market, including the largest locations in China for Givenchy, Jimmy Choo, and Muji.

The “Slow Lane” ringing the temple walls at the heart of the site (shown here under construction) provides a leisurely place for dining and lifestyle retail. (Chen Yao)
The “Slow Lane” ringing the temple walls at the heart of the site (shown here under construction) provides a leisurely place for dining and lifestyle retail. (Chen Yao)

Observations and Lessons Learned

Placemaking pays dividends, especially in a crowded marketplace. By tapping into the site’s “genius loci”—the authentic spirit and essential character of a place—Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu created a one-of-a-kind experience. The idea of juxtaposing upscale retail alongside a Buddhist temple seems unorthodox, as does the idea of combining single-story heritage buildings with skyscrapers. However, these surprising and unexpected adjacencies are the moments that make cities memorable.

A successful urban environment needs a robust but flexible urban framework underneath. Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu built its permeable circulation network off a network of small blocks that evolved over thousands of years to facilitate commerce at its site. It multiplied that connectivity with strategically placed additional passages and levels to add connectivity, and a dual merchandising strategy that doubles as wayfinding. The architecture provides a subdued but flexible background, while not neglecting details like textures and shapes. Ground-level open spaces and openings between levels, like skylights into the subterranean arcade, provide both orientation points and visual relief.

Retail thrives on synergies and with complementary uses. The Fast Lane and Slow Lane racetracks provide retailers with optimal co-tenancies, creating parallel environments where Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu can play to its dual strengths (luxury brands and dining/entertainment). A strong program of public art, events (held in an incomparable heritage space), and pop-up retail keeps the foot traffic going, complemented by a hotel that is a destination in its own right.

Project Information

Development timeline 
Site purchasedDecember 2010
GroundbreakingMay 2011
Leasing startedAugust 2012
Soft openingFall 2014
Grand openingApril 2015

Gross building areaSquare feet
Office1,299,882
Retail/restaurant1,226,870
Hotel227,000
Serviced apartments107,793
Total GBA2,862,000
Number of parking spaces1,610

Land use planSite area (acres)% of Site
Buildings10.9560%
Streets, landscaping, open space7.340%
Total18.25100%

Hotel information
Number of rooms100
Number of serviced apartments42
Standard room size678sq ft
Luxury room size1,033sq ft
Suites, range of sizes968 - 3,089sq ft
Apartments, range of sizes968 - 1,646sq ft
Standard room rate from$219per night

Retail/restaurant information
Retail GLA1,226,870 sq ft
Percentage of retail GLA occupied (June 2015)87%

Key retail/restaurant tenantsRetail typeGLA (sq ft)
OléSupermarket
Cinema PalaceMovie theater
Fangsuo CommuneBookstore57,499
MujiHousewares and café34,140
HermèsFashion9,039
GucciFashion
ChloéFashion
CartierJeweler
StarbucksCoffee shop
Let's SeafoodSeafood restaurant
Lime GardenVietnamese restaurant
Mango SixCoffee and dessert café
Häagen-DazsIce cream
MustGuetteEnglish restaurant
Hot IronJapanese restaurant
Element FreshHealth food restaurant6,839
Swatch (Breguet, Blancpain, Omega)Watches

Development cost informationAmount in RMB
Site acquisition cost (2010)2,002,880,000
Total development cost at completion9,000,000,000

City
Chengdu

Country
China

Metro Area
Chengdu

Project Type
Mixed Use

Location Type
Central Business District

Land Uses
Cinema
Event Space
Hotel
Office
Parking
Plaza
Religious Use
Restaurant
Retail
Spa
Supermarket

Keywords
Adaptive reuse
LEED Gold
Main street retail
pedestrian streets
ULI Global Awards for Excellence 2015 Winner

Site Size
18.25 acres
acres hectares

Date Started
2010

Date Opened
2014

Website

www.soltklcd.com

Address

8 Middle Shamao Street, Jinjiang, Chengdu, Sichuan, China 610021

Developers

Swire Properties Limited
Hong Kong

Sino-Ocean Land Holdings Limited
Beijing, China

Owner

Chengdu Qiaohao Property Co. Ltd.

Architect – retail

The Oval Partnership Ltd.
Hong Kong

Architect – office and hotel

Make Architects
Hong Kong

Interior design – arcade

Spawton Architecture

Elena Galli Giallini Ltd.

Landscape architect

Urbis Limited

Design and engineering consultant

China Southwest Architecture Design and Research Institute Corp. Ltd.

Lighting consultant

Lighting Planner Associates

Signage consultant

Graphia International Ltd.

Art consultant

Alison Pickett

Transportation consultant

MVA Ltd.

Audiovisual consultant

Shen Milson & Wilke

Environmental consultant

Das Daring Energy Technology Co. Ltd.

Heritage consultant

Tsinghua University, Architectural Design and Research Institute

ULI Staff

Patrick L. Phillips
Global Chief Executive Officer

Kathleen B. Carey
President and CEO, ULI Foundation

Dean Schwanke
Senior Vice President
Case Studies and Publications

Payton Chung
Director
Case Studies and Publications
Principal Author

James A. Mulligan
Senior Editor

David James Rose
Manuscript Editor

ULI Global Awards for Excellence 2015 Winner

Note: This case study draws extensively on information and text developed by the Oval Partnership as part of the firm’s 2015 submission to the ULI Global Awards for Excellence program.

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