The New Beijing #2 | Sanlitun

The Sanlitun precinct in Beijing was one of the first areas with bars and venues catering to westerners and dates back to the early eighties. In the lead up to the 2008 Olympics the western side of the main street was demolished almost entirely to make way for what is now known as The Village.

The South Village was completed first and houses mid-range retail outlets (including Apples flagship store) and numerous bars, restaurants and cafes. The master-plan is based on the traditional Beijing network of laneways (hutong) and is extruded up over four levels creating some interesting spaces but perhaps not the best retail strategy. Hong Kong based SWIRE Properties aquired the development from the original owner and executed a ‘retro-fit’ even before the project was finished. It is now one of the centerpieces of the New Beijing.

More recently SWIRE have completed the North Village which is home to many of the high end luxury retail brands. The allocation of public open space in the north precinct is more generous than the south but has yet to be populated by people – perhaps because most of the shoppers frequenting this destination are arriving in the Bentley Continental, the Ferrari California or the Aston Martin Rapide – in via the basement carpark and directly into the shops. One key component of the north precinct is the Opposite House Hotel by Kengo Kuma – see interior shots below.

One of the more recent developments by SWIRE in Hong Kong is the Frank Ghery designed Stubbs Road project at the Peak. This project was showcased in an exhibition of Gherys work in one of the North Village buildings in November 2010.

To the south side of Gong Ti Bei Road (Workers Stadium North Road) is the recently completed SOHO Sanlitun project developed by Beijing property tycoons Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi. Also designed by Kengo Kuma and similar in format to the earlier Jian Wai SOHO project (by Riken Yamamoto), the residential apartment and commercial office towers are linked at ground level around central courtyard areas that lead to basement levels. One of their latest Beijing projects is Galaxy SOHO designed by Zaha Hadid.

While Vice President and Design Director with global design firm HOK, I designed two projects in the Sanlitun area. The Topwin Cente is located adjacent to the Sanlitun SOHO on the western side of Sanlitun South Road and is a 123,000m2, 40 level mixed use development including residential apartments, a five star Intercontinental hotel and a retail mall. The Shimao Gong San Plaza project is located to the west of the main Sanlitun area on Xin Dong Road and is a 200,000m2, 16 level mixed use development including residential apartments, commercial office and a retail mall. Both projects are currently under construction.