Concept Design, Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documentation Review and Construction Administration
ASPECT Studios, PHA
Wenjie Wang, xf photography, Hongkong Land
Nestled in Chongqing’s urban heart, ASPECT Studios has crafted a journey through fantasy and natural wonder at The Ring, a landmark community-oriented retail destination.
The Ring pushes the boundaries of the traditional retail environment, which has been turned on its head in recent years by online shopping culture and the pandemic. As the first of Hongkong Land’s new experience-based retail destinations, the project shifts the emphasis from commercial exchange to social exchange and connection to nature. The provision of much-needed accessible public open space, a multitude of facilities, and unique indoor and outdoor experiences are tailored for the enjoyment of a diverse community.
In a city as dense and as large as Chongqing, the reinsertion of nature back into urban life requires an imaginative solution. ASPECT’s design spins a narrative inspired by the natural environment, with visitors embarking on a multi-dimensional voyage from the moment they arrive.
This journey begins in the urban arrival park, which mimics the dreamy undulations of the sea current. Locally sourced materials have been incorporated to reflect oceanic characteristics and movements. A metaphorical school of “manta rays,” sketched out in groupings of facilities, spaces, lookouts, experiences and shaded seating planters, reflects the idea of community.
The impression of light fading into the depths of the ocean is represented in the tonal transitions of terraces, steps and level changes, which also allow the urban park to mitigate the significant site levels. This also creates a series of usable and accessible community spaces, including areas for art, exhibitions, community gathering, shaded relaxation and active water play.
From the urban park visitors travel to the community plaza, an event and gathering space framed on either side by elevated lookouts and sculptural art works and enclosed by terrace seating. The interactive sculptural artwork mimics the form of a seashell, allowing visitors to explore as they traverse a cave-like space to reach the lower level and take in the delightful view of a 20-metre-high dancing fountain. As a major gathering community events space, the urban arrival park serve for having local community of over 50,000 residents a place meet and celebrate holidays and festive events.
The northern edge of the plaza contains a lookout space which floats out of the terrace, allowing people to explore the planting which acts as a refuge in the shade of the trees.
At the core of the project, reflecting the connection between ocean and land, visitors find themselves within an open-air dining street inspired by a forest valley. Here, surrounded by dense planting displays, visitors can experience and explore nature on multiple levels. Misting systems and a valley water feature provide a passively cooled environment and a unique setting for visitors to enjoy the many cafes and restaurants set among the planting, creating a place to relax, connect and explore.
At the highest point of the development, the Sky Gardens provide a peaceful retreat from the busy levels below and an environment for people to meander and explore drifts of seasonal and flowering plants. These also offer a much-needed resource for pollinating insects and wildlife. More generally, most of the plants installed across the entirety of the project’s 50,000 square metres are local species, requiring lower maintenance and less water.
The Ring is a demonstration of how ASPECT Studios recontextualizes city life with its urban projects.
The grounds of the complex take visitors on a journey that elevates the retail experience, while at the same time expanding what that experience is, and reimagining what it could be.
Stephen Buckle, ASPECT Studios’ Shanghai studio director, said, “The Ring reinvents the traditional principle of retail, addressing critical urban challenges and mapping out the future of this location. By focusing on people and community and providing meaningful publicly accessible open space over short-term gain and commercial dominance, not only have we provided the much- needed public realm facilities, we have also created an inspirational and unique destination for people of the city to explore.”