ODA’s first Chinese project is a tiered, greenery-topped gathering spot in Chengdu

Sichuan Stunner

ODA’s first Chinese project is a tiered, greenery-topped gathering spot in Chengdu

ODA’s master plan for a mixed-used development in Chengdu is “staggered, creating pockets of privacy and connectivity, nooks for relaxation as well as recreation,” according to the firm. (Filippo Bolognese Images/Courtesy ODA)

ODA, the New York-based firm perhaps best known domestically for helping to make stacked box-buildings a thing in Brooklyn and beyond, has revealed its first-ever project in China.

Conceived as a master plan for the city of Chengdu, capital of the southwest Sichuan province, the project is a breezy and bountiful one-million-square-foot mixed-use development that includes a quartet of mid-rise residential towers anchored by a park-like commercial hub where indoor and outdoor spaces are seamlessly melded into a single inviting urban landscape. As such, ODA has eschewed the sometimes-rigid barriers presented by traditional car-centric streetscapes in which social engagement either takes place inside or outside, with little or no flow between the two. Calling the project an “urban experiment in rearranging priorities for the public realm,” ODA noted in a project description that “… our architecture allows us to rearrange these interactive experiences in a modern and integrated way.”

rendering of a mixed-use commercial and residential project in Chengdu, China, formed nearly entirely from precast concrete
Centered around pedestrian traffic, the development will be nestled alongside a canal. (Filippo Bolognese Images/Courtesy ODA)
rendering of a mixed-use commercial and residential project with canopies above concrete cubes
A pleasant place to socialize, catch some shade, and partake in retail therapy. (Filippo Bolognese Images/Courtesy ODA)

At first glance, the project’s renderings illustrate what appears to be a mash-up of a particularly nice open-air mall and Lawrence Halprin’s Freeway Park in Seattle. Populated by staggered concrete volumes of different sizes and heights and topped with greenery, ODA’s master plan is intended to promote openness and easy, effortless social interaction among users. The design, per the firm, “opens up the apartment towers to elevated terraced gardens overlooking retail below, while the roofs of the shops remain open to the sky, a sprawling elevated walkway with room for food and beverage, landscape, intimate seating areas, and views.”

The community’s plant-laden 700,000-square-foot commercial district, arranged as a continuous loop, will encompass two levels. Dotted with cafes, shops, galleries, and other services, the ground level of the plan is largely dominated by plantings, parks, public plazas and courtyards, and water features. The sunken lower level, which connects the community to Chengdu’s canal system and ferry access, is a shoo-in for nightclubs, bars, and the like.

Rendering of a mixed-use commercial district made from concrete cubes
Flanked by residential towers, the development’s commercial core will feature shops and inviting public spaces. (Filippo Bolognese Images/Courtesy ODA)
a diagram of a mixed-use development in Chengdu
Spread out over two levels, ODA’s master plan encompasses 1 million square feet. (Courtesy ODA)

The Chengdu development’s offices and residential spaces, much like its retail core, will also enjoy “direct outdoor access” thanks to the presence of exterior staircases, community gardens, shaded outdoor seating areas, and more.

“This particular development in Chengdu offers an opportunity to test new forms of urban arrangements that aren’t possible in established metropolitan areas,” ODA founding principal Eran Chen told AN. “It calls for innovation, creating a neighborhood where the many pieces fit together in a new way. We strive to create more intimacy within our communities through the purposeful design of urban voids that can be programmed to offer a balance between indoor and outdoor, where we can institute technologies that promote health and wellness, and create a community that feels culturally authentic and yet universal.”