Design & Architecture

Sanlitun is known for its small local shops and eateries. Everyday, many tourists visit there for its lively urban atmosphere. The main objective of Sanlitun SOHO’s design is to create an attractive plaza that organically extends out of the activities on the street. The future Sanlitun SOHO will be a final destination for the city’s commerce, a place where recreation, consumption, social interaction and creativity converge. It will be a locale of great vitality, which raises the value of its surroundings.

Sanlitun SOHO satisfies the various demands of urban living and promotes the future development of the area with its high-end residential and office spaces and diverse and bountiful shops. This environment will change the developmental model of the past of small businesses naturally extending outward to an urban landscape in which all different kinds of avocations can be found. However, Sanlitun SOHO is not just about commerce; it is also an optimal environment for both living and working. The project will cultivate new lifestyles that we can expect to vitalize the area.

Open Design and Three-Layer Shopping Promenande

“The first unique feature of Sanlitun SOHO is that it is designed to be an open community, melding with the city, with no surrounding walls whatsoever,” said Pan Shiyi. “The second is that there are many paths built for freely browsing about. To accommodate this idea, we have designed three layers of walkways, with two layers underground. On the two sides of each colonnade are the five shopping malls and boutiques, lending vigor to the community.”

“The ground level walkway extends from the north and connects to the major commercial area of the project. On the lower level one finds the first open architecture, outdoor plaza of Beijing, together with a roller skating rink, where various activities can be held all year round. We position it as what will be Beijing’s liveliest outdoor recreation and shopping plaza in Beijing,” continued Pan Shiyi.

Pan Shiyi has a completely new concept of architecture that he foresees as helping realize Sanlitun SOHO’s mission, that is, to create a culture of architecture to attract those young people who pursue fashion. He said, “I feel that the most influential product on my lifestyle and culture has been Apple’s iPod. It prevails because of its simplicity. Therefore, I believe that for anything to have an influence on our culture, it must agree with the aesthetics of the new generation, such as their understanding of color and architecture.”

Brand-new Concept

The integrated development of ‘Community + Trade Center’

With a total construction area of approximately 470,000 square meters, Sanlitun SOHO is the largest of the projects currently under construction in the area. Pan Shiyi said, “We place special emphasis on integrating the functionalities of the various buildings, aiming to make Sanlitun SOHO the first project in the area to combine shopping malls, offices, and luxury apartments to fully meet the demands for work, shopping, dining, leisure, socializing and living. This way, we can derive even greater enjoyment from the leisure and convenience of modern urban life.”

Exterior Design and Façades

The exterior of the retail podiums and the towers are continuous façades, with no edges, creating an inviting, friendly urban space for both visitors and inhabitants. The podium and tower interiors employ glass and aluminum panels in naturally producing a sense of vertical alignment to reflect the architecture’s narrow straightness. The lightly colored buildings surround a vibrant orange building, creating a strong visual centerpiece.

Traffic and Fireproofing Design

The main entrance to the site for car traffic is on northwest end. The streets running alongside the four sides of the site form the main traffic corridors. In case of emergency, the side of the sunken garden on the ground level can be used as a fire access road. There is a width of more than nine meters maintained around the towers for firefighting purposes. On the north side of the site, there is a taxi stop and drop-off point for retail customers. Tenants and officegoers can embark and disembark their vehicles close to the towers.

Ramps leading into the underground parking garage can be found at each of the site’s four sides. Under each retail block, there are convenient loading areas providing excellent handling for freight. Parking is placed on the three levels from B2 to B4. On the ground level there are 55 parking spaces; underground, there are 2098, for a total of 2153 spots in all.

Bicycle parking is concentrated at the south side of B2, near the ramp. For residents, bicycle parking areas are placed close to the elevator shafts, and can accommodate 2837 bikes in total.

Greenery and Landscape

At the site’s periphery, sunken gardens and rooftops maximize the extent of the greenery. By meticulously designing each level of space along the sunken garden with various natural materials, the space forms not only an avenue for the retail facilities, but also a public park or plaza for the entire Sanlitun area.

With planted rooftop gardens on the retail blocks, the site is fully covered with greenery, presenting a soothing landscape when viewed from the towers above and surrounding buildings. Also, the rooftop greenery provides climate control within the building interior, thereby reducing energy consumption. In this fashion, the design’s landscape and greenery play the multiple roles of protecting the environment and achieving sustainable development.


Kengo Kuma


The Compact City

Visitors to Beijing Sanlitun are at once struck by its unique charm. It is a place where the dynamism of the city borders on the serenity of a village, as illustrated by its bars which adjoin embassies. It is a ‘compact city,’ not only in the sense of scale, but in the allure of its ‘neighborhoodliness.’ Sanlitun SOHO further revives this vision of ‘proximity’ in a novel style representative of the 21st century.

What the cities of the 20th century lacked most was exactly this kind of neighborly closeness. The dynamic downtown and quiet suburbs were disconnected, only to be bridged by automobiles – an American style of urban development, which bankrupted people’s quality of life. Today, people appreciate most the neighborhoods where they can enjoy both tranquility and vitality at the same – places like New York’s SOHO and Tokyo’s Aoyama. These ‘compact cities’ instill both a sense of community and the hope of solving the planet’s environmental problems. At Sanlitun SOHO, we see the most sophisticated example of this new model of urban development.

The architects of Sanlitun SOHO have adopted a panoramic design through the harmonious grouping of its nine superhigh-rise towers. The ‘discovery’ they offer is that architecture is in fact landscape – is in fact Nature – despite the notion of its being inherently confrontational to it. They describe the towers as standing shoulder to shoulder, organically, as if forming a futuristic Grand Canyon.

In this canyon, we envision the sudden metamorphosis of those towering, masculine structures into valleys of feminine tenderness. The architects appropriate the form of the skyscraper – the symbol of the urban center – to create a new revisionist version of Nature. Through the techniques of reversal, they dissolve the hackneyed dichotomy between City and Nature. It is this fusion which is truly indicative of an event appropriate for the Sanlitun district and the 21st Century. The organic integration of Sanlitun SOHO’s nine skyscrapers take us to a new place and offers a view never before seen.

The Valley, the Main Street, the Center of Sanlitun SOHO

Within the landscape shaped by the assembly of buildings, a valley comes into being. This valley is a sunken pedestrian street which runs from north to south. A babbling brook converges in the middle, forming a gathering place for passers-by. Water, indispensable to Beijing due to its dry climate, endows the valley with life.

Furnishings will be provided that give off light similar to paper-covered lamps at night, and LEDs embedded into the pavement will guide people like a swarm of fireflies. By creating an abundance of greenery, this valley wil create a soothing ambience, making it a new haven for people to gather and relax.

Façade – The Texture of Nature

The trees covering a forest, the surface of water extending into a sea, the sands of a desert – the extension of what seems to be infinite brings with it rich modulation and diversity. This is something that is characteristic of the natural world, and represents its charm. Though the same elements duplicate themselves, just why is it that one does not feel them to be mundane when placed in their midst? The reason is that Nature wondrously receives elemental force from sunlight, wind, heat, and cold, and in doing so forges a colorful countenance.

The façade of Sanlitun SOHO is comprised of a pattern of panels with differing colors, sizes and orientations, creating scenery like leaves blanketing a forest. By combining this texture with the organic external form, the buildings appear to be ever-changing. When strolling about, it is as if one were hiking about in Nature – the exact effect that the veneer of Sanlitun SOHO is meant to evoke.

The Five Atriums – The Organs

Each of the project’s five commercial facilities has its own large atrium, which immerses people with a unique ambience as they pass through. To create this ambience, architectural elements such as the walls, ceilings and handrails are no longer viewed as independent objects, but rather as the flesh that enshrouds the internal organs, that is, the atriums.

Each internal organ – stomach, small intestines, large intestines – is encased in its own unique membrane, thereby generating its own distinct aura. This aura fully controls the mood of the people entering the organ, imprinting their memory with something that they cannot forget and filling them with the desire to return to breathe in the same air again.

All five skin types have a lightness and softness that was lacking in the materials used for the external and interior walls of conventional buildings. These coverings provide an impression that is somewhere between a building and clothes, and could also be considered to give an impression that is an intermediate state between a covering used on a building and skin. This is the direction to which architectural facades are evolving, and this project represents a forerunner in this trend.


Both the office and apartment buildings are ‘soft towers’. In the 20th century, skyscrapers were ‘hard towers,’ designed for superficial pageantry of power and wealth. By adopting soft shapes and an outward composition, these soft towers blend in with the environment, offering people a sense of serenity and well being. The landscape formed by the soft towers is reminiscent of the grain silos in the town of San Gimignano in the Tuscana region of Italy. The provision of a number of towers in a line that have a soft shape and are covered with soft materials creates scenery with a rich appearance. This scenery will be similar to that of the members of a family who are at peace and in harmony with one another, who all have faces and appearances that slightly differ.

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Sanlitun SOHO

South Side of Gongti North Road

Chaoyang District, Beijing

100027 China