A canopy of 32 architectural trees is the highlight of the Koichi Takada Architects-designed Solar Trees Marketplace in Shanghai’s Minhang district.

Inspired by Shanghai's forests while reinterpreting the traditional Chinese market as a community place, the architecture studio has visualised a series of 32 manmade trees that rise from the ground to form a canopy of branches above the new marketplace and its modular stalls. The translucent canopy will allow fresh air and natural light to flow in while providing shelter and shade to the marketplace below. Solar panels on the canopy will generate the energy required to power the marketplace, with the nature-inspired biophilic design referencing China’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2060.

“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 explained.

Located 20km south-west of Shanghai, Solar Trees Marketplace is a three-storey mixed-use development, spanning a total floor area of 3450 square metres. This commercial development is part of a larger 155,000-square-metre masterplan for a residential precinct by Tian An China Investments Company Limited. Incorporating considered environmental and sustainable design initiatives, the project demonstrates that it is possible to transform one of the world's most polluted cities into a healthier and more liveable urban environment, setting a new green benchmark for mixed-use residential developments.

In addition to designing for a green future, keeping in mind China’s 2060 carbon goals, Koichi Takada Architects also pays homage to the past with the modular market stalls bringing a sense of authenticity to the contemporary development. The design references the history of traditional marketplaces as social and cultural gathering spaces while looking to balance between the old and new.

While the artificial trees serve their unique purpose, the development also includes 50 camphor trees planted outside to mark the beginning of the green corridor that runs through the masterplan. Additionally, 3000 trees and shrubs indigenous to Shanghai, including white Magnolia (Shanghai’s city flower), Ginkgo, Camphor and Celtis Sinensis will create a new and significant park in the precinct.

Solar Trees Marketplace is currently under construction and set for completion in early 2022.

Solar Trees Marketplace Visualisation: Doug & Wolf