UNStudio's Chinese shopping centre
is covered in silver balls


Dutch firm UNStudio has completed a shopping centre in Wuhan, China, with over 42,000 shiny silver balls attached to its facade (+ slideshow).

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

UNStudio designed nine variations of the stainless steel spheres to cover the exterior of the Hanjie Wanda Square shopping centre, which are intended to recreate the effect of rippling water or silk. Each one contains a small LED light that further animates the facade after dark.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

Three different entrances lead shoppers towards atriums at the north and south ends of the building. The first has an oval-shaped plan, while the second features a perfect circle.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

"In Hanjie Wanda Square a circular motif is repeated in many different ways and patterns, both in the facade and throughout the interior," explained UNStudio principal Ben van Berkel, whose previous projects include an airport in Georgia and a department store in South Korea.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

"The patterns used are influenced by numerous cultural references, both traditional and contemporary. Patterns drive our aesthetic choices, whether they be personal or shared, and in Hanjie Wanda Square act as a background to the world of desire encapsulated in the contemporary shopping plaza," he said.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

A monochrome colour scheme is predominant throughout most of the interior and incorporates perforated screens, glazed balustrades and polished floors.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

The southern atrium continues this theme, with shades of grey picked up across surfaces, but the larger northern atrium offers a few golden and bronze tones.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

Van Berkel said: "Reflection, light and pattern are used throughout the Hanjie Wanda Square to create an almost fantastical world. New microcosms and experiences are created for the shopper, similar perhaps to the world of theatre, whereby the retail complex becomes almost a stage or a place of performance and offers a variety of different impressions and experiences to the visitor."

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

There are four main levels to the shopping centre, organised around a looping plan that accommodates shops, restaurants and cinemas.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

Large skylights stretch across the roof to allow daylight to enter the building.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

Photography is by Edmon Leong.

Here's a project description from UNStudio:

Ben van Berkel / UNStudio's Hanjie Wanda Square in Wuhan completed

Hanjie Wanda Square is a new luxury shopping plaza located in the Wuhan Central Culture Centre, one of the most important areas of Wuhan City in China.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

Following competitions in 2011 with design entries from national and international architects, UNStudio's overall design was selected as the winning entry for the facade and interior of the Hanjie Wanda Square. The shopping plaza houses international brand stores, world-class boutiques, catering outlets and cinemas.

In UNStudio's design the concept of luxury is incorporated through the craftsmanship of noble, yet simple materials and combines both contemporary and traditional design elements in one concept.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

Synergy of flows

For the design of the Hanjie Wanda Square attention and visitor flows are guided from the main routes towards the facades and entrances of the building. From the three main entrances visitor flows are thereafter guided to two interior atria.

The concept of 'synergy of flows' is key to all of the design components; the fluid articulation of the building envelope, the programming of the dynamic facade lighting and the interior pattern language which guides customers from the central atria to the upper levels and throughout the building via linking corridors.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio

Facade design

The facade design reflects the handcrafted combination of two materials: polished stainless steel and patterned glass. These two materials are crafted into nine differently trimmed, but standardised spheres. Their specific positions in relation to each other recreate the effect of movement and reflection in water, or the sensuous folds of silk fabric.

The architectural lighting is integrated into the building envelope's 42,333 spheres. Within each sphere LED-fixtures emit light onto the laminated glass to generate glowing circular spots. Simultaneously a second set of LED's at the rear side of the spheres create a diffuse illumination on the back panels. Various possibilities to combine and control the lighting allow diverse effects and programming of lighting sequences related to the use and activation of the Hanjie Wanda Square.

Floor plan of Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio
Floor plan - click for larger image

Interior concept

The interior concept is developed around the north and south atria, creating two different, yet integrated atmospheres. The atria become the centre of the dynamic duality of the two Hanjie Wanda Square identities: Contemporary and Traditional. Variations in geometry, materials and details define these differing characters.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio
Section diagram - click for larger image

With two main entrances, the north atrium is recognised as a main venue hall, and the south atrium as a more intimate venue hall. The north atrium is characterised by warm golden and bronze materials reflecting a cultural, traditional identity.

In the south atrium silver and grey nuances with reflective textures reflect the city identity and its urban rhythm. Both atria are crowned by skylights with a funnel structure which connects the roof and the ground floor. The funnel structures are each clad with 2600 glass panels and are digitally printed with an intricate pattern. In addition, each funnel integrally houses a pair of panorama lifts.

Shopping centre covered in silver balls by UNStudio
Atrium concept diagram - click for larger image

Client: Wuhan Wanda East Lake Real State Co. Ltd
Location: ShaHu Ave, Wu Chang Qu, Wuhan, China
Facade: 30.500 sqm
Interior: 22.630 sqm
Programme: Luxury shopping mall
Contribution UNStudio: Facade and interior design
Status: Realised

  • pipo

    Looks like the ultimate Pachinko parlor.

  • T,.T

    From the exterior, selfridge by future system looks better.

  • David

    This is cool but it looks heavily inspired (both inside and out) by Jan Kaplicky’s ‘Selfridges’ building in Birmingham, UK.

  • Ben

    My eyes hurt!

  • Luke Petty

    What a load of balls.

  • Massimo

    Ok, guys! This is the fake. Where is the real one?!

  • dwf

    It’s more like UN Studio’s Galleria in Seoul than Selfridges. Also looks far better.

  • jgm

    Actually I would say that it is heavily influenced by their own work in Korea, where they used discs instead of spheres (and it looked a bit more tasteful if I may say so).

    I feel like UNStudio has really embraced wealthy Chinese extravagance in their designs for China and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way.

  • Chris MacDonald

    Fairly hideous exterior, but a rather elegant interior.

  • Steeevyo

    Galaxy Soho interiors look more accomplished. Given that they look exactly the same.

  • generalpopulation


  • Daniel

    Surely Christian Louboutin designed this?