Architecture takes all forms, representing culture, history, function and innovation. Some structures incorporate them all, like the in-process Solar Trees Marketplace currently under construction in the Minhang district, not far from Shanghai, China.

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The project, led by Koichi Takada Architects, is a mixed-use development intended to serve as a gateway to the new Shanghai Tian An Caobao Road Area Residential Masterplan by Tian An China.

Related: DMAA designs Residential Greenhouse in Germany

market stalls beneath curving pavilions

Developers wanted this transition area to represent nature, so they found inspiration in the forest. The result is a canopy of 32 human-made architectural trees that offer natural light and shading. In addition, the space will promote outdoor activities as a walking and biking region. The nature-inspired design also stands as an example of changing architecture in one of the world’s most polluted cities. The goal is to lead by example in efforts to create more livable and healthier urban spaces, in alignment with China’s commitment to be carbon-neutral by 2060.

The development pays homage to China’s long history of trade and commerce with a marketplace design. Modular market stalls offer spaces to gather, with the goal of connecting people to each other and to the past.   

curving pavilions covered in plants and shading a market area

“We want to humanise buildings in the district, to be more engaging to the public and contribute to the regeneration of communities and their neighbourhoods. We want architecture to celebrate cultural identity, along with encouraging pedestrian activities and a more walkable and liveable city,” Koichi Takada Architects said.

The Solar Trees Marketplace not only emulates nature but respects it with solar panels to power the development, further melding historical relevance with modern innovation.

plants covering curvy building

The solar tree installation complements the native plants also integrated into the masterplan. In a press release, the designers stated, “Three thousand trees and shrubs indigenous to Shanghai, including white Magnolia (Shanghai’s city flower), Ginkgo, Camphor and Celtis Sinensis create a new and significant park. Colour coding of different plantings also acts to identify and distinguish neighbourhoods within the masterplan and offers a guide for residents to find their way home.” There’s no getting lost in this urban forest.

+ Koichi Takada Architects

Images via Koichi Takada Architects