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The 1,000 Trees Development

Andy is a third year Architectural student an the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

photo of 1000 trees project in Shanghai

The 1,000 Trees development is a 300,000-square-meter project located in Shanghai by Heatherwick Studio and opened in 2020. The mixed-use project is covered in trees, attempting to imitate a hill-like topography on the relatively flat land of Shanghai. The building is going to contain a mix of retail, offices, eateries, event venues, and galleries. This project is unique and important in today’s world because of the use of greenery in the design.

The city of Shanghai is very dense and lacks a lot of greenery that other cities such as Berlin, Madrid, and Copenhagen contain. 1,000 Trees will set a great example for the design of future projects in other cities and who wish to positively impact the environment. 1,000 Trees is a very compelling contemporary architectural project because it addresses the environmental crisis but also adds a unique hill-like topography that the city of Shanghai does not have. Its multi-use program will add value to various sectors of the society.

photo of 1000 trees project in Shanghai

Architects play a major role in dealing with environmental degradation because buildings are responsible for "38% of the world's output of planet-warming gas." Lots of cities around the world suffer from terrible air quality and while it is not entirely the architect's fault, proper design can make a huge difference. If buildings that use the bare minimum of fossil fuels can be created that would greatly benefit the atmosphere around the city and clear up smog.

Shanghai suffers from bad air quality at times. According to Rob Schmitz from Marketplace, “Each day when I wake up I check my phone. Not for email, but to check the air quality. I have an app that gives me hourly readings from the air monitoring station at the U.S. consulate here in Shanghai”. The residents of Shanghai have to take extreme measures to deal with air quality and that means that there has to be a change in thinking about how to properly sustain the environment.

photo of 1000 trees project in Shanghai

Heatherwick Studio commented, “As a studio we are really interested in materiality and a lot of research went into the planters themselves so that they would serve as a structure but also have an architectural identity throughout the building, and give interest at human scale”. By incorporating hundreds of trees throughout the entire project, one is able to experience them at human scale as they venture throughout the building.

Collectively, the planters contain approximately 25,000 individual plants and 46 different plant species including shrubs, perennials, and climbers. Furthermore, the Studio will also include a 900-meter-long stretch of riverside public space and 12,000-square-meter landscape park with a jogging path, sculpture garden and series of outdoor event spaces. There will be more green space for the public to participate in outdoor activities like walking and biking thus promoting a greener city. With the help of the 1,000 Trees project, the rest of the city can take note of Heatherwick Studio and follow in their footsteps to create a more promising and healthier future.

Shanghai is considered a dense city. According to, the population density is 2059 inhabitants per square kilometer and is deemed one of the most populated cities in China. For this reason, it is important for architects to use this data when designing multi-purpose buildings. Since the project is incorporating different uses like, retail, offices, eateries, and venues, it allows for a more practical design that will help reduce the space taken up by several single-use buildings.

While the full city experience may be described as tall skyscrapers crammed together with narrow streets weaving in-between, the better option in today’s world will be to incorporate more green spaces. For example, in Milwaukee, the downtown area has incorporated wider streets with bike paths as well as large medians with grass to give a friendlier atmosphere when visitors or residents venture throughout the city. This also helps reduce the dangerous smog that so many other cities already have and produce cleaner air for a better experience.

1,000 Trees is a push in the right direction towards a greener cities.


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