Raffles City Hangzhou by UNStudio



Dutch architect Ben van Berkel of UNStudio has unveiled plans for a 60-storey building with two towers in Hangzhou, China.


Called Raffles City, the building will incorporate retail spaces, offices, housing and a hotel.


“The philosophy behind the Raffles City concept is to integrate mixed use in an urban context, but in such a way as to give this concept a twist by focussing on where the urban context meets the landscape of the city," says van Berkel.


"In the design of the towers the urban element of the project twists towards the landscape, whilst the landscape aspect, in turn, twists towards the urban context, thereby effecting the incorporation and consolidation of these separate elements in one formal gesture.”


The building is due for completion in 2012.

Here's some more information from UNStudio:


Raffles City, Hangzhou, China

Unstudio’s mixed-use Raffles City development is located near the Qiangtan River in Hangzhou, the capital of  Zhejiang province, located 180 kilometres southwest of Shanghai. With a city population of 1.69 million, Hangzhou is one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China and is well known for its beautiful natural scenery, particularly in the West Lake area.

UNStudio’s Raffles City in Hangzhou will be CapitaLand’s sixth Raffles City, following those in Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Bahrain. UNStudio’s Raffles City Hangzhou incorporates retail, offices, housing and hotel facilities and marks the site of a cultural landscape within the Quianjiang.


New Town Area.

Raffles City Hangzhou is due for realisation in 2012. After four years of planning and construction, it will reach a height of 60 stories, presenting views both to and from the Qiantang River and West Lake areas. Raffles City Hangzhou will provide a total floor area of almost 300,000 square metres.

In the chain of events and attractions of Hangzhou, like the West Lake area and the commercial centre, the Raffles City project will be at the core of the Qianjiang New Town area and contribute to the recognition of this area as a new destination in the city.


Ben van Berkel says of the project, "I believe it will have a sizable impact, as it is a project with a very strong identity and an individual character, which means it will become a place to which people would like to return. It is a project which communicates both with the architecture and within the context of Hangzhou as a city, for this reason we believe it will be a very unique building in China.”

Sustainable design principles.

An inclusive approach to sustainability is an important part of UNStudio’s design philosophy. In the Raffles City project UNStudio seeks to receive the gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building rating system, the industry standard for rating of the eco-friendliness of buildings.


The incorporation of natural ventilation principles and the ways in which materials are employed, all work in concordance with one another to lower the energy and material demands of the building. Urban sustainability is also an important consideration in the design. The programme mix creates a dynamic, continuous 24/7 cycle of activity, a hub for business conduct, a new destination for visitors and residents alike and will become an all-in-one destination for working, living, leisure and entertainment.

Raffles City, Hangzhou, China, 2008
Client: CapitaLand 
Location: Hangzhou, China
Building surface: 389,489 m2
Building site: 40,355m2
Programme: Mixed-use, incorporating commercial buildings: Class A office buildings, five-star hotels and high end residential buildings.
Status: Planned realisation 2012



Concept Design and Schematic Design:
Ben van Berkel, Caroline Bos, Astrid Piber with Hannes Pfau, Markus van Aalderen
Team: Juliane Maier, Marc Salemink, Shu Yan Chan and Andreas Bogenschuetz, Marina Bozukova, Brendon Carlin, Miklos Deri, Gary Freedman, Juergen Heinzel, Alexander Hugo, Abhijit Kapade, Marcin Koltunski, Fernie Lai, James Leng, Peter Moerland, Rudi Nieveen, Hans-Peter Nuenning, Hyunil Oh, Yi Cheng Pan, Steffen Riegas, Rikjan Scholten, Ioana Sulea, Christian Veddeler, Luming Wang, Zhenfei Wang, Rein Werkhoven, Georg Willheim.



local Design Institute:
China United Engineering Corporation, Hangzhou
Structure, Mechanical Engineering, Fire Engineering, LEED:
Arup London, Arup Shanghai, Arup LEED Hong Kong

Meinhardt Façade Technology, Hong Kong

Transport consultants:
MVA Transport Consultants, Hong Kong

Posted on Friday July 17th 2009 at 3:46 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • jh

    ‘the building is due for completion in 2012’

  • abeer basha

    love those curves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Michael

    nowaday, technology does bring us a lot of convenience in design process, such as scripting driven parametic generated form. Since this is an “urban project”, more diagram and demography can help understand the design intend. Is this project really reflecting the current need of this particular city (Hangzhou, China) in order to address what it needs to improve? or it is just another “object” being plugged onto the urban ground? Seem like this project can be plugged onto anywhere on the planet. Is architect become a “thinker” of the form or shape with 10 paragraphs of description about the design philosophy which may doing nothing to its form? When architect(s) create such items, please also give a huge credit to the architects’ assistants, engineers, computers and the programs which generate the form. To sketch a line and think of something to explain the sketch is not as easy as to figure out how to put things together and make it real.

  • zee

    UNStudio = Zaha Hadid

  • ste

    its china!! so for completion 2012 they can make a big break like for 2 years now! ;-)

  • rodger

    nice work, up to a point. portman was doing these kinds of curvaceous projects much better 40 years ago. portman’s projects were not so one dimensional as this project and he created much more profound architectural spaces.
    the interior of UNstudio’s project proves the point. what a disappointment. what a shallow project.

  • GiantD

    Michael: could not agree more RE: state of architectural profession. Very sad to see computers get no credit. Very troubling vis a vis contemporary understandings of human consciousness. Very refreshing to see such profound sanity here. Found particularly fascinating your comment on the tower as field figure. WHY NOT BOTH!?!?!?!??!?!?! CAN WE NOT MAKE TOWERS THAT DO BOOTTHTHHH???

  • T Sandwich

    RE: Giant D in Re: Michelle

    I couldn’t agree more. With comments like these I think we can finally solve architecture using DEZEEN!!!!!

    “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” –March 16, 2003, Eric Owen Moss.

  • texxeen

    “focusing on where the urban context meets the landscape of the city” , but isn’t the urban context the landscape of the city? Focusing on my “cellphones” ringtone as it differs from my “mobile phones” ringtone. This building is UNhadid of Van Berkel. Nice, curvy and LOUD.

  • rek

    Is there a name for this undulating/twisting style of structure? Or Hadid’s flowing metamorphic lumps?

    Say what you will about them, they’re worlds better than the jumbled stacks of glass cubes they compete with.

  • Dave

    I’m usually a fan of UNstudio, however this screams Hadid. I’m now going to the junkyard to smash every computer I see.

  • hacedeca

    I like this style. No more boring cubes! Sculptures instead!

  • nothingbutcode

    i’m not normally a fan of UNstudio, but dave, i would love to join you.

  • Cody

    Just because something has a curve doesn’t always mean that it looks like Zaha. And I can’t help but hear peoples’ proclivities for conservative patterned curtain wall (jumbled or not) stacked boxes.

  • NMT

    I’m usually a fan of UNstudio as well, however this time they went too far.
    Clearly the design intent are bunch of bs, some contradicting fancy word play.

    Hangzhou being one of the most natural and beautiful ancient city of China, it is subtle and rich with heritage, filled with traditional houses and graced with west lake. See for yourself


    “The philosophy behind the Raffles City concept is to integrate mixed use in an urban context, but in such a way as to give this concept a twist by focussing on where the urban context meets the landscape of the city,”

    HUH? What do they mean? We don’t see it at all?

  • Seth

    Doesn’t scream hadid! and is very much a UNSTUDIO project.
    Just because something has curves doesn’t make it a Hadid nor Van Berkel…
    there have been architects doing it long before both of them. Yes, computers
    and new toolings are used and exploited in many of the projects we see…but lets not
    forget that they are tools! and don’t need crediting of any sort. UNSTUDIO has been
    exercising this design approach for many years and it is a result of there design
    process and the way they conceive there projects. Towers are a particularly interesting and difficult
    typology to design. Most towers around the world are often static and boring, lacking any sort of innovation.
    Zaha, Van Berkel, Nouvel, and Kaplicky have all tried to push the limits of this typology.

  • William Smith

    So there soon becomes an interesting question: which is better? A city of rectilinear box buildings that create a repetition, a pattern throughout the city as a whole? Or instead a city of individualistic curvilinear buildings that are interesting in their own right, but do not create a vernacular for the city as a whole? Of course in time, we can hope to find a harmonious middle ground. But forget that for a moment, and choose: which?

  • Archandy

    The question I always ask is: what makes this special to that site? Could you drop it in any location and would it still work?

  • Cody

    Seth, I couldn’t agree with you more. With respect to the city, I think achieving a balance is key. I love this genre of work…but naturally, a city filled with smooth, bio-morphic forms would fail to achieve any kind of cohesion. The work is a lot like salt, in moderation – it enhances – too much and it will kill you. A relentless field generic boxes would be so terribly monotonous and would fall short of achieving a consistency of texture due to a lack of contrast with distinct buildings that play a critical role in the city by offering character and expression.
    The UnStudio project typologically is two towers and a plinth, it maintains its edge and distributes mass in a way that allows for natural light at the ground level yet does it in a way that is new and provocative. And I don’t think the project is in such conflict with some of the seminal works on the city -Rowe’s argument from Collage City or Rossi’s Architecture of the City.

  • windbag

    “Is there a name for this undulating/twisting style of structure?”

    yes, it is:

    “Twisted radiator grill”

  • sberla

    They look like turning air conditioners.

  • lmnop

    This discussion over boxes and blobs is foolish. To sort an architectural character, and belittle thousands of hours of work, into one of two categories is absurd. What about the significant aspects of an architectural work?

    Human experience
    Materials and construction
    Urban design
    Historic signifiance successful
    Addressing of energy issues

    I do find the form and continuity of the envelope quite, but the ground floor, perhaps the most important for a skyscraper, looks absolutely awful. The designers should be satisfied, but they’ve really only tackled a very narrow scope of architecture.

  • hj

    couldn’t they keep the plinth and get rid of those towers?

  • @ William Smith: I choose to create a vernacular for the city as a whole. I suspect this is why I often feel betrayed by these curve heavy designs…

  • William Smith

    @ Royal: well said. I would not have a problem with the form of the building if it was somehow continuing a form of the city’s, or was tapping into an existing vernacular. Instead it seems like an object plugged into an arbitrary spot in the ground. @Imnop: I do not mean to belittle this work by any means. Instead I mean only to look at one particular aspect of this architecture. People very often say that a work is hideous or beautiful. I think the outcome depends heavily on how the architecture is made a piece or part of its place, rather than just dominating it.

  • Mavis Lian

    “The philosophy behind the Raffles City concept is to integrate mixed use in an urban context, but in such a way as to give this concept a twist by focussing on where the urban context meets the landscape of the city”

    Yeah Right..
    I am from Hangzhou.
    These two towers to me look more like they should be belong to somewhere at the East River side of Shanghai, or New York, or Hong Kong.
    I think UNstudio should just be honest and say it is total computer programed architecture which has minimal to do with the surrounding context.
    I think it says pretty clearly on the rendering pictures itself .

  • Pierre Sinsua

    zaha hadid influenced? zaha uses such styles that it has become her, althought this work should not resemble her

  • arne

    i can not stand these hyperrealistic render images…
    in the end it will never look like this once finished…
    please let me see some artistic visualizations, where i can feel the project.

  • m


    “Towers are a particularly interesting and difficult typology to design”

    In a way, towers have the problem of being exactly the opposite: uninteresting and easy. Ironically, any simple two storey villa is in essense a much more demanding and rich design question than a tower – where the space of flow is linear, predictable and one-dimensional, and every storey has no context, except for the storey above and below and the air. There is no routing and there is not much architecture except for interior design, the ground floor (shopping centre in this case) and the facade.

    Sure, due to their size towers can be used to create impressive architectural formalism, if one wishes, but this has very limited power to create an essencially better (or more interesting) tower than a simple repetition of a layout of effecient appartments. It’s make-up, basically.

  • Katsudon

    I have the same feeling as Mavin Lian. I know very well Hangzhou and love this city!
    I’m caught between two feelings.
    The old city of Hangzhou have completly disapeared! If you want to remember the ancient beauty of the city, you have then to go along the West Lake and close your eyes to ignore the modern city center that have no architectural or urban interest.
    Despite of this the landscape, from the lake in the city center to the tea fields in the hills is an enchantement! Hangzhou is absolutely a lovely place providing no ending discoveries and deserves a real reflection on it’s urban renewal! There’s great things to bring to this city!
    I don’t think that UN’s OBJECT is ugly, and i know the district this will take place is not architecturaly sensible (it’s outside the city center, completely newly urbanised with wide speedways along which spreads a kind of urban tower park), but this PROJECT looks just nothing more than a vase dropped into the city! You could take it, drop it in another completely different place and change the text to make it match with the new location. But this is typical of what happen everywhere in China. I know they probably had no time/informations or whatever to work on a larger scale and think urban impact “for real”. But come on, stop those excuses texts, it’s like making fun of the audience!
    Look at chinese architects doing a IN DEPTH exciting job, like Urbanus most of time, Pei Zhu very often and Wang Shu everytime!!! They give me hope for chinese urban landscape!


  • Margaret Lee

    oh no, pleeease don’t put this building in Hangzhou!!!! Agree with Marvis Lian. Keep these buildings in New York, or Dubai. I don’t hate it, but it really does not have the beautiful and natural flow of forms that is unique of Zaha’s creations. I love the Chanel exhibition design I visited in Hong Kong.

  • J

    Well, I feel that basically the market for governing urban level coherence/aethetics is missing.

    The issue is perhaps more like an economic one rather than architectural. cos I am pretty sure architects know how to think on urban level but they eventually work for the developers, who are enterprices that exist to make money. And to do that, they look at immediate sourrounding and metro.

    There are a number of regulations such as the height and orientation constrains by the authority to pay respect to the lake but that’s about it. we should be thankful that the authority even stipulated ample landscape and setback requirements on ground level.

    If someone can actually think of a way to put a price on those qualities which are large scale/ contextual/historically sensitive etc. then the architects should have no prob delivering. Afterall, no one wants to do things that are not really paid well in the market.

  • viggo

    If someone pushed the limits of this typology, it's OMA

  • pana

    alguien que tenga una planta o esquema de este edificio??