Commercial art gallery

The “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” in Shanghai to open along a stream

Dong Jun / SHINE

On Wednesday, the new flagship commercial project “Tian An 1000 Trees” will open its doors along Suzhou Creek.

An iconic new shopping complex along Suzhou Creek in Shanghai, dubbed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, will open on Wednesday.

The initial phase of the “Tian An 1000 Trees” project will include restaurants, museums, art galleries and entertainment venues, as well as the city’s early industrial legacies.

Residents and tourists alike have been intrigued by the structure’s unconventional appearance over its eight years of development, with trees planted on its pillars and balconies.

There will be up to 1000 pillars topped with a tree, giving the structure the appearance of a hill. An automated sprinkler system has been buried in each of the pillars to keep the more than 70 tree species lush throughout the year.

The structure – designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the British architect behind the UK pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo – sits along Moganshan and Changhua Roads in the Putuo District, in the east of the Changhua road bridge.

“It will become the brightest ‘pearl’ along the 42-kilometer-long Suzhou Creek in downtown Shanghai,” said Song Shengli, deputy director of Putuo’s advertising department.

Construction has started for the second phase which will be a taller structure with hanging gardens along the creek. It will open as a boutique hotel and office building in two years.

The riparian region was the former site of China’s first private flour factory – the largest and most modern of its kind in East Asia when it opened in 1900.

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Dong Jun / SHINE

Each concrete pillar is topped by a tree and an intelligent sprinkler system.

The Fufeng Flour Factory, which became the Shanghai Flour Factory in the 1960s, was owned by the Rong brothers, Zongjing and Desheng, tycoons known as the “flour and textile kings” of China.

Rong Desheng’s son, Rong Yiren, was Vice President of China from 1993 to 1998. He established the China International Trust and Investment Corp, or CITIC, in 1978.

To underline the history of the site, four buildings belonging to the old flour mill have been preserved and will be integrated into the new complex.

An old bell tower of the factory has been transformed into a tourist lift. The tower is wrapped in rusty planks to highlight its history. Other historic buildings will house an art gallery and restaurants.

“The goal was (to create) a warm and lively structure with a harmonious relationship between man and nature, rather than a concrete mammoth,” said Huang Jingsheng, general manager of marketing for the project.

The more than 1,000 trees used for the project would be able to absorb 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, while creating oxygen for more than 2,000 people.

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Global artists have been invited to create artwork for the shopping complex.

The inspiration for the design came from the Yellow Mountain in China with the two phases of the project resembling two peaks, while the trees and plants make it resemble mountain cliffs. “I wanted to create a structure where designers and business people can draw inspiration from the possibilities,” Heatherwick said.

The project is located next to the M50 Art Center, which houses around 130 galleries and organizations from 18 countries. The center opened in 2001 and features fine arts, fashion design, architecture, furniture, film and animation, jewelry, and arts education.

Sixteen top graffiti artists were invited to create paintings on one side of the Tian An Project to commemorate the site once popular among artists.

A 600-meter-long graffiti wall, which featured hundreds of examples of graffiti, was demolished to open up the riverside space for the commercial project.

Artists were also invited to display their works or create paintings and art installations inside the mall. A number of art galleries will open in the complex to work in concert with the neighboring art hub.

A riverside path flanked by cherry trees has been created past the complex along the creek and an art installation will be unveiled early next year, to become the first piece of art placed on the creek, according to the sub. – Changshou Road District.

A lighting ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday evening for its grand opening when all the hanging trees will be lit up along the creek.

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Dong Jun / SHINE

Several graffiti on one side of the project near the M50 art center.

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Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

The project was called the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Shanghai.

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Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Work on the second phase of the project has started along Suzhou Creek.