Beijing’s Chaoyang Park Square: the realization of Ma Yansong’s “Shanshui City”

By Stefania Danieli

Ma Yansong is one of the most influential architects of contemporary China, the first Chinese architect to win an overseas landmark-building project with the Canadian’s Absolute Towers, awarded with The Best New High-rise Building in the America’s by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) in 2012, and Emporis’s World’s Best New Skyscraper later the same year.

Together with his team of MAD architects (, Ma elaborated a “Shanshui City” concept: a “city of mountains and water”, a contemporary interpretation of China’s ancient natural philosophy in nowadays cities. The aim of this architectural concept is to combine high-density cities with the atmosphere of the nature to create an energetic urban public space for the future allowing people to re-connect their emotions with nature.

The “Shanshui﹒Experiment﹒Complex” has been presented at the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture 2013 (to know more this event, please check our previous blog:, an installation based on MAD’s Nanjing Zendai Thumb Plaza, a urban design project of about 600,000 square meters expected to be completed in 2017. “The installation approaches those issues by creating a green open space spreading on the ground level of the city, where the natural and man-made landscapes cross over with each other, existing in different dimensions both indoors and outdoors” – MAD.

Meanwhile, another recent realization of the “Shanshui City” concept has begun construction in Beijing: the Chaoyang Park Plaza, over 120,000 square meters of mixed use buildings located in the Central Business District (CBD), at the southern edge of the enormous Chaoyang Park. Similarly to Nanjing Zendai Thumb Plaza, this project tries to create a dialogue between artificial scenery and natural landscapes: “the forms of the buildings echo what is found in natural landscapes, and re-introduces nature to the urban realm” – MAD.

“Like the tall mountain cliffs and river landscapes of China, a pair of asymmetrical towers creates a dramatic skyline in front of the park. Ridges and valleys define the shape of the exterior glass facade, as if the natural forces of erosion wore down the tower into a few thin lines. Flowing down the facade, the lines emphasize the smoothness of the towers and its verticality. […] Located to the South of the towers, four office buildings are shaped like river stones that have been eroded over a long period. Smooth, round, and each with its own features, they are delicately arranged to allow each other space while also forming an organic whole. Adjacent to the office buildings are two multi-level residential buildings in the Southwest area of the compound. These buildings continue the ‘mid-air courtyard’concept, and provide all who live here with the freedom of wandering through a mountain forest” – MAD.

Photo credits:

 23632d5Stefania was born and raised in Italy, where she took a BA in Languages and a MA in Business Communication at the University of Perugia. She fluently speaks both Mandarin and English, and by now has been living in China for over two years. Having been raised in a country rich of history and culture like Italy, she has always had a strong interest in art and architecture, which led her right through the Chinese landscape design industry. She is currently working as Marketing Director at Beijing’s based America Leedscape Planning and Design Co. Ltd.

One response to “Beijing’s Chaoyang Park Square: the realization of Ma Yansong’s “Shanshui City”

  1. Pingback: Beijing MAD Architects’ “Shanshui City” at 2014 Venice Biennale | China Architecture Blog·


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