SOM unveils its cloud-like design for new Alibaba headquarters in Shanghai

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
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THE ALIBABA SHANGHAI CAMPUS GETS A NEW HQ DESIGN BY SOM

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has just unveiled a new headquarters proposal for leading global technology company Alibaba in Shanghai’s Xuhui District. The building presents itself as a cloud-like volume, symbolizing Alibaba’s extraordinary digital presence in the Cloud and the shifting skies of innovation within the tech industry.

The 75,000 sqm headquarters will accommodate the rapid expansion of the company’s multinational team with design features that prioritize flexibility and healthy work environments. The proposal greatly expands the Alibaba Shanghai campus, and will sit adjacent to a public-facing building for offices and programming.

A MODULAR WORKPLACE THAT EVOLVES AND ADAPTS TO CHANGE

The distinctive, modular design of SOM’s Alibaba headquarters proposal is envisioned to be both highly efficient and flexible, making room for expansion and various workstations as teams evolve and grow over time. Specifically, the architects have laid out indoor-outdoor areas that support hybrid work and dynamic collaborations within team structures. These new workstations are supported by a smart technology infrastructure and biophilic design features to optimize employee wellness (natural ventilation, terraces, and green roofs).

‘The only constant is change’ is one of Alibaba’s guiding principles,’ says SOM Design Partner Scott Duncan. ‘We took this ethos to heart, designing a workplace capable of evolving and adapting to new needs, teams, and technologies over time. The headquarters is designed in dialogue with the existing campus, inverting the neighboring building as it unfolds across cantilevered masses and staggered, green terraces.’

INJECTING BIOPHILIC FEATURES

At the center of the cloud-like complex, SOM proposed an interior courtyard as the main location for programming and teaming. Meanwhile, along the exterior perimeter, collaborative work and gathering spaces seamlessly extend onto outdoor terraces, providing access to nature, fresh air, and views of the Huangpu River. Complementing those features are ‘collaboration bridges’ and connective stairs where smaller-scale exchanges and interactions can unfold among employees.

Finally, in line with its biophilic vision, the practice set up the facades as high-performance surfaces that can redirect up to 40% of solar heat gain and minimize glare and wind tunnels for occupants on the terraces. The headquarters will also be naturally ventilated using smart systems that cycle fresh air and reduce cooling needs amid Shanghai’s sub-tropical climate. Temperature moderation will further be enabled with an AI-controlled shading system that responds to the sun’s movement and mitigates solar heat gain. At the top of the building, roof gardens will harvest rainwater.

Designed to exceed the requirements for LEED v4 and China Green Star, SOM’s Alibaba headquarters design is targeting both low embodied and operational carbon.

Project info:

Name: Alibaba Shanghai Campus Headquarters

Location: Xuhui, Shanghai, China

Project area: 75,000 sqm

Architecture: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

the proposed design symbolizes Alibaba’s strong digital presence in the Cloud
 

the proposed design symbolizes Alibaba’s strong digital presence in the Cloud

 

an interior courtyard becomes a central location for programming and teaming