Our Shanghai studio celebrates its 10th birthday

Chapman Taylor’s Shanghai studio has worked on some incredible projects in the ten years since it was established, including large-scale retail and leisure developments such as Shanghai Global Harbor and Jiangnan Global Harbor, world-class theme parks like Global 100 in Hainan, urban masterplans such as at Jinqiao in Shanghai, as well as interior design and refurbishment such as at the famous No.1 Department Store in Shanghai. In this article, we talk to Shanghai Directors Hua Lei and Peter Mackey about the origins and development of the studio, and ask how it is adapting to the ever-changing Chinese market.

A truly world-beating portfolio of projects

How has the Chinese market evolved in the last ten years?

PM: One change is that there has been a move away from the very large-scale retail developments (often more than 400,000m²) that were in vogue a decade ago, and many of the prime sites which could accommodate a development of that scale are built on now. Shopping centres are now more often about 100,000m² in size, and the content of those shopping centres has changed dramatically – from 100% retail to a strong mix which includes F&B, leisure and other elements.

Transport-orientated design is becoming increasingly common – Shanghai has 17 metro lines now, with more miles of underground railway than London, while Beijing has more metro stations than New York. Metro systems are being built over China, because there are cities of between five and ten million all over the country. The connection between these transport infrastructure projects and the urban space around them is very important. Chapman Taylor is involved in adding retail elements to some of these transport projects, but is also designing projects to link effectively with the transport infrastructure. I live within perhaps four stops of 12 major shopping centres! This level of choice means that retail design has to be memorable and have an effective USP – Shanghai Global Harbor, for example, is a place people go for a day out experience.

Designed by Chapman Taylor, Shanghai Global Harbor is one of the largest mixed-use, retail-led schemes in the world.

To what extent has Chapman Taylor’s profile in China grown in recent years?

HL: From a lower profile initially, most professional developers in China know how good we are, and see us in the same bracket as international companies who came to China earlier than us. We recently had an international masterplan competition to design several blocks at Jinqiao, in Shanghai. 19 designers from 14 of the largest and best-known international design companies took part, and Chapman Taylor was one of only five companies to have two designers taking part – Peter and (Main Board Director) Chris Lanksbury, both of whose designs for central retail-led blocks won. This is a good illustration of just how well-positioned Chapman Taylor now is in China, and of the excellent reputation we have gained. I would say that we are now considered to be in the top class of international architects in China.

Shanghai Media City is our masterplan project for Shanghai's second central business district.

What are the key challenges for international companies like ours when developing business in China?

HL: We market ourselves for what we are best at – commercial architecture and retail masterplanning. Our challenge was to establish ourselves in the top class of go-to design companies, and we have achieved that – we now have a very strong presence as one of the best international firms in these areas. Many of our direct competitors are American, German and French, and it helps that we, as a British firm, benefit from a good reputation for British companies in China – we are viewed as more serious and more solid, with an excellent reputation for professionalism.

We make sure to be focused in our pitches as a studio. We are quite open with potential clients about where our strengths lie. Clients come to us for our skills and experience in particular areas, especially masterplans, urban design, retail developments, interiors and mixed-use developments led by retail. We are also developing a presence in the transportation sector, particularly in airport design and airport retail. 

Opening in 2018, Global 100 is a 170 hectare theme park containing attractions influenced by international film-making from Europe, China and America

Tell us about some of the key projects recently worked on by the Shanghai studio

PM: Global 100 on Hainan Island, for which we did the masterplan and architectural concept design, is a major Disney-like theme park which is approaching completion. I visited the site last week, and I was struck by how large and impressive it is. The themed architecture is nothing short of heroic, I think, and has been executed very well.

We are also working on a major shopping centre interior for one of the big players in Chinese retail, CRL (China Resources Ltd.). The Buji MixC project, in Shenzhen, involves us refreshing and updating the well-known MixC brand, which is now ten years old, to make it more colourful and more attractive to a social media-savvy generation. The redesign is set to open in May this year, and will hopefully lead to a lot more work creating a new generation of modern shopping centre interior designs.

HL: We recently finished a landmark refurbishment of the world-famous No.1 Department Store in Shanghai, creating a modern shopping centre while restoring the original department store to its former glory. The store, once the largest in the entire region, opened in 1934, and sits on the best-known shopping street in Shanghai. They once sold tickets just to come in to the store to see the first-ever escalator in China. The whole development will serve diverse demographic groups, with a carefully-selected tenant mix in each component part. We were delighted that our refurbishment was awarded ‘Best Retail Interior in China’ at the 2018-19 Asia-Pacific Property Awards.  We will be working on another two projects of a similar nature in 2018.

Shanghai No. 1 Department Store, once the largest in the Far East, was opened in 1934, and our renovation scheme reimagined the famous store while restoring it to its former glory.

What next for the Shanghai studio?

HL: Our plan for the next couple of years is to solidify Chapman Taylor’s reputation in China and to strengthen our market position. We will be looking to work with more well-known clients, and to increase our presence in areas across China. Many of our most important jobs have been in the region around Shanghai, but we will be looking to explore opportunities elsewhere, in important markets like Beijing. We are always looking for ways in which we can expand our business in a sustainable way.

PM: Chapman Taylor has a lot of skill worldwide in urban regeneration, as exemplified by the award-winning Alstadtquartier Büchel project in Aachen, Germany. China will begin to move away from standalone, podium-and-tower retail developments and towards integrated urban mixed-use streetscapes. Chapman Taylor’s extensive experience in creating well-integrated urban regeneration schemes, mixing retail streets with public spaces and other uses, will prove to be very helpful as that process gets underway. I think that Chapman Taylor is in an excellent position to help guide the way towards more interesting mixed-use developments in China.

Yangpu riverside is a mixed-use 1,100-hectare masterplan for one of the former industrial heartlands of Shanghai.

For more information, please contact:

Hua Lei
Director (Shanghai)
hlei@chapmantaylor.com

Peter Mackey
Director (Shanghai)
pmackey@chapmantaylor.com

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