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New Suzhou Creek landmark ready for shoppers


A new landmark shopping complex along the Suzhou Creek in Shanghai, dubbed the city’s Hanging Gardens of Babylon, will open tomorrow.

The initial phase of the “Tian An 1000 Trees” project will include restaurants, museums, art galleries and entertainment sites, along with the city’s earliest industrial heritages.

Residents and tourists have been intrigued by the structure’s unconventional appearance during its eight years of development, with trees planted on its pillars and balconies.

There will be up to 1,000 pillars with a tree on top of each, giving the structure a hill-like appearance. An automated watering system has been buried in each of the pillars to keep the 70-plus species of trees luxuriant throughout the year.

The structure — designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the British architect behind the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 — is along Moganshan and Changhua roads in Putuo District to the east of the Changhua Road Bridge.

“It will become the most shining ‘pearl’ along the 42-kilometer-long Suzhou Creek riverside in Shanghai’s downtown,” said Song Shengli, deputy director of Putuo’s publicity department.

Construction has begun for the second phase which will be a taller structure with hanging gardens along the creek. It will open as a boutique hotel and office building in two years.

The riverside region was the former site of China’s earliest private flour factory — east Asia’s largest and most modern plant of its kind when it opened in 1900. Fufeng Flour Factory, which became Shanghai Flour Factory in the 1960s, was owned by the Rong brothers, Zongjing and Desheng — tycoons known as China’s “kings of flour and textiles.”

Rong Desheng’s son Rong Yiren was vice president of China from 1993 to 1998. He set up the China International Trust and Investment Corp in 1978.

To highlight the history of the site, four buildings belonging to the former flour plant have been preserved and will be incorporated in the new complex.

A former bell tower of the factory has been converted into a sightseeing elevator. The tower is wrapped in rusty boards to highlight its history. Other historical buildings will house an art gallery and restaurants.

“The aim was (to have) a warm and live structure with harmonious relationship between human and nature, rather than a concrete mammoth,” said Huang Jingsheng, project marketing general manager.

A lighting ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow night for its grand opening when all the hanging trees will be illuminated along the creek.