Foster + Partners to build new offices for Alibaba in Shanghai, China

The London-based firm’s winning proposal for Alibaba, the world’s largest online retailer, visualises a transparent building with a vibrant, social core.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Jan 10, 2020

Foster + Partners has won a competition to design the new offices for the Chinese ecommerce giant, Alibaba. Located at the Xuhui Riverside in Shanghai, the structure with a transparent build aims to display the company’s distinct working culture to the public, providing them a glimpse into the world of Alibaba. The building is proposed to be a landmark for the world’s largest online retailer, and will provide magnificent views of the Huangpu River and the Pudong CBD. 

Luke Fox, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners, explains that the design emphasises the importance of communication, the integrity of the working community and above all, the creation of an image that reflects the standing of Alibaba. “The scheme is truly designed from the inside out, centred on a dynamic, sheltered public space capitalising on its amazing location with its views of the Huangpu River and the Bund," he adds.

Aerial view of Alibaba’s new offices in Shanghai | Alibaba Headquarters | Foster and Partners | STIRworld
Aerial view of Alibaba’s new offices in Shanghai Image Credit: Courtesy of Foster + Partners

The layout is planned around a central core, which leads to a big public urban room, ushering people inside, and creating a vibrant, social centre. This area has viewing terraces, overlooking the central space along with the building’s primary entrances, which provide access inside. 

Foster + Partners has created a fitting form for the Alibaba offices by using an innovative design process that employs "a genetic algorithm to evolve the optimal massing." This algorithm brings together key design features such as responsiveness to the environment, maximising views to the outside and specific area requirements for varied functions of the building. “The design optimises the massing to provide the best year-round user comfort in the central public space, protecting it from strong winter winds and the harsh summer sun, while creating tailored workspace solutions for the different departments at Alibaba,” explains the studio.

The design is planned around a central core, which opens up to a big public urban room | Alibaba Headquarters | Foster and Partners | STIRworld
The design is planned around a central core, which opens up to a big public urban room Image Credit: Courtesy of Foster + Partners

The proposal also optimises teamwork and collaboration between workers, through an adroit arrangement of the desks, informal spaces and meeting rooms. Interactions are encouraged, aided by the visual and physical connectivity of the areas. Ample natural light and external areas animate the workspaces, leading to a more focussed and engaged workforce. The modular design approach utilises off-site production for quality control, which minimises on-site operations, reduces wastage and creates an efficient construction programme. 

Project Details

Name: Alibaba headquarters
Location: Shanghai, China
Client: Alibaba
Architect: Foster + Partners

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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