Our concept for Xintiandi is simple and human: make places, mainly outdoors, for people to meet.

Hailed by architectural critic Paul Goldberger as Shanghai’s “most provocative new architectural project” and said by the New York Times to have given Shanghai “a way of life not possible before it was born,” the project realizes many of the principles which consequently guide our work: embrace and encourage the life of the street, build an environment bound up with what it is to be alive and well in modern China, and above all build a place – not just buildings – with which people want to identify.

The anchor of the redevelopment of an old Shanghai neighborhood, Ben Wood and his then partner Carlos Zapata took a holistic approach, focusing on not just the buildings but the quality of the space between them to evoke that sense that everything just fits. Inspired by Ben Wood’s work as a partner at the Boston firm of Benjamin C. Thompson, we used the fabric of the linong, the formerly ubiquitous vernacular Shanghainese housing block famous for its rich detail and interlocking passages and courtyards. Narrow alleys invite street goers into restaurant, gallery and café filled buildings, clustered in turn around squares filled with tables and fountains.

The first project in China to combine restoration, renovation, and new construction, in the $200 million, two block, 60,000 square meter project we used contemporary Chinese craftsmanship to compliment the work of the past. Old Shikumen gates were preserved and made into shop windows and doors, but even the new pavers were each made of hand hammered granite. It took a day to install just four.

Dependent on neither an individual building nor on the meticulous preservation of architecture for its success, the project acts as the center piece of Shui On Land’s surrounding Taipingqiao development, laid out by Skidmore Owings and Merrill. The Singapore Office Nikken Sekkei International Ltd acted as the architect of record, and the Design and Research Institute as a consultant.

It also acts as the location of Studio Shanghai’s gallery, office, and bar.