AJ+C unveils design for Hainan Duty Free City in Sanya
Hainan is a popular Chinese leisure and holiday destination and there are widespread plans to develop the island into a world class destination. This will be achieved by providing strong economic development incentives to expand the island’s tourism industry, combined with retail tax reduction incentives to encourage commercial growth.
AJ+C prepared this design for a 1 million square metre mixed-use commercial development on a beach front site near Sanya, on the southern coast of Hainan island, which is also bisected by a canal. The brief called for a world class luxury duty free shopping destination, complemented by boutique hotel accommodation, residential villas, restaurants, a marina, and other recreational facilities.
The majority of the retail development was to be focused along the portion of site fronting the ocean. Like many projects in China, this posed challenging questions of how to accommodate an extensive built program brief, whilst retaining a sense of the quality and spirit of the original site and its greater context.
Our primary response to the brief sought to fuse a poetic sense unique to the natural environment of Hainan with deliberate programmatic decisions regarding sustainability.
The intent was to approach the retail model in a more passive, sustainable way, in order to minimise energy consumption through shading, increased access to natural light, aspect and ventilation.
The native Chinese Banyan tree was our main source of inspiration. Once mature, this tree’s canopy is able to vastly extend outward horizontally by growing aerial prop roots that act as additional structural support. From this, the idea of using an abstracted ‘built canopy’ as a technique to filter and modulate the external environment was born.
The ‘canopy’ provides environmental protection where required, making the climate of Hainan more habitable, while encouraging a connection with the outdoors and aspect. Though abstract, the motif of this canopy originated with the idea of finding ways to relevantly connect the built environment to its location.
Our semi-outdoor retail model is a clear point of difference for Hainan, and China in general, where wholly internalised shopping centre models for large scale retail development are the norm.
Underneath the ‘canopy’, discrete retail pavilions, gardens and water bodies are arranged along a series of elevated, slightly loose, linear streets connecting and terminating with views to the beach and ocean.
There is no major singular centralised public space, but public spaces are dispersed and informalised throughout, taking inspiration from the Chinese market street. The public spaces also extend three dimensionally, with perpendicular high and low level connections. It was important that these zones be exclusively the pedestrian domain, and programmatically all car parking and loading are concealed underneath this retail precinct, with vertical connections where required.
This device inspired by the banyan tree, extends and disperses outward from the main retail precinct, through to the other precincts on site via the pedestrian linking bridge, onto the hotel and marina island, and then finally through to the clubhouse villa and local retail precinct. The intention is that this constructed element slowly disintegrates as the site transitions from the coastal site, with its constructed landscaping, through to the increasingly naturally vegetated clubhouse site.