The Roof

designed by /

Location: China / Shanghai / Type: Green Facade / Roofs / Built: 2020 /
Show on Google Maps / Published on October 19, 2022

Representing qualities of the backstreets (Li ‘long) of Shanghai, The Roof carefully weaves its surrounding culture into its distinctive design, creating a model for future city spaces where people and nature thrive in a destination to see and be seen in.

The project is defined by its bold architecture and living façades, sky decks and sky gardens, with plants everywhere, at all heights and depths. Flowers, shrubs, trees, and draping flora form an extraordinary visual and spatial display. The whole place resonates with the feeling of nature and fresh air, adding a special charm to the city and neighbourhood.

The idea of reflecting the DNA of Li ’long has been layered into the design to form a place full of diverse forms of social life allowing people to co-exist and connect with nature on multiple levels. Creating an iconic contemporary office and commercial hub, bordered by vibrant community spaces, the design respects the scale of the surrounding urban environment, yet has its own depth of detail and individuality. Vivid red and beige brick frame the linear corridors, while an abundance of greenery in potted plants climb, cascade, and thrive on every surface, creating a biophilic environment that’s intrinsic to the Li ’long.

Increasing biodiversity in a dense urban setting was crucial in informing the chosen plant species, whilst also considering the creation of a year-round display of changing natural colours, tones, and greenery.

Across the project there is a total of ten façades, which house horizontal arrangements and clusters of planting. Each cluster is a collection of curated species suitable to its climate conditions. The clusters create an ever-changing seasonal display from the atrium to the outer façades. The façade integrations have strongly encouraged wildlife and pollinators into the heart of a dense urban environment, which creates a harmonious place for people and nature.

At the top of the building there are two roof gardens with gathering spaces which are planted with trees that open out to the sky, creating a shared terrace that offers an open view to the urban skyline. Sky decks on selected floors provide immersive, cool and welcoming spaces that grant the opportunity to walk in nature and appreciate the diverse forms of life.

ASPECT Studios undertook an evidence-based design approach to apprise the design and creative process, helping to guide decisions on planting, biodiversity, development of material palettes and details that reflect the unique character of place.

This process included building a one-to-one scale mock-up on the outskirts of Shanghai for testing and studying of the complex architecture and structure, as well as an advance growing strategy to achieve robust planting design solutions from the outset. Data on solar, wind, sun, and other micro-climate related factors that cover both the building and surroundings was digitally analysed in depth using the latest micro climatic modelling tools.

In summer when in leaf, the plants provide interior shade that reduces heavy reliance on air conditioning. In winter, the deciduous species drop their leaves and help increase natural light exposure while the soil assists to create an additional layer of thermal buffer against the cold air.

The Roof’s planting is specifically positioned to ensure it is viewed from inside, allowing each office worker to enjoy a unique environment engrossed in nature and greenery. When human senses are stimulated in a way nature intended, the benefits to psychological wellbeing, among many others prevail. This connection is especially important in the workplace where the incorporation of green space and natural light are proven to help with individual health and wellbeing, ensuring better employee satisfaction, office productivity, and greater levels of creativity, motivation, and efficiency.


  • Client: CIFI Group – Architecture: Ateliers Jean Nouvel
  • Landscape Architecture: ASPECT Studios
  • Living Façade: ASPECT Studios
  • ASPECT Design Team
    • Principle Landscape Architect: Stephen Buckle
    • Design Team: Derek Chen, Sam Xu, Suki Ye, Lemon Liao, Yan Luo, Phannita Phanitpharadon, Alex Cunanan de Dios, Cameron Archie
  • Local Architecture Engineer: Tianhua Group,
  • Local Landscape Engineer: Triones Landscape Eng Co
  • UHPC and Technical support Façade panels and Pot Fabricator: Ulcont Ltd.
  • Previous LA Concept: WAA

Project Location: 458 Ma‘Dang road, Huang’Pu district, Shanghai, China

Design year: 2019

Year Built: 2020

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