MAD Architects won an international competition for the design of the Cuntan International Cruise Centre in Chongqing, China, headed by Ma Yansong and in partnership with the China Academy of Building Research (CASR). The project location, a 66,000-square-meter container port in Chongqing’s Liangjiang New Area, is now under construction. The property and related cruise terminal are located inside the Cuntan Port region, providing Yangtze River access. The land will be transformed into a 65,000-square-meter international cruise terminal and city complex, including a 15,000-square-meter cruise port and 50,000 square meters of commercial space, according to MAD’s designs.

Competition to Design International Cruise Centre in China won by MAD Architects - Sheet1
Chongqing Cuntan Cruise Terminal_©MAD

“Chongqing has mountains and waters,” said Ma Yansong, reflecting on the vision behind the winning scheme. “However, the Yangtze River is more than just a natural landscape in Chongqing. Because of human activities such as shipping traffic and industrial transport, this mountain city is also full of energy and movement. We want to transform this energy in Chongqing from traces of industry into an energy that stimulates the imagination. People can feel the kinetic energy of the city here, but also imagine the public spaces of the future.”

Competition to Design International Cruise Centre in China won by MAD Architects - Sheet2
Chongqing Cuntan Cruise Terminal_©MAD

Gantry Crane a Walking City | Cruise Centre

The massive orange gantry cranes that dominate the freight port inspired the MAD team during their visit. “These gantry cranes became living alien creatures that gave a sense of surrealism,” Ma noted. “The new scheme is therefore not only about reflecting the industrial colours of the past, but also about respecting this original surrealism. We have designed the elevated buildings as if they were a futuristic, free-walking city, seemingly arriving here from elsewhere, and perhaps travelling elsewhere once again someday.”

Competition to Design International Cruise Centre in China won by MAD Architects - Sheet3
Chongqing Cuntan Cruise Terminal_©MAD

Yangtze River Skywalk

The Yangtze River Skywalk is a 430-metre-long structure made up of six different and interconnected buildings. From a perspective, the buildings appear to rise and fall, emulating the rhythm and colour of the industrial cranes and providing an open, unimpeded sight of the river. The aluminium curtain wall of the building offers the parlour, shops, and restaurants a modern and dreamlike appearance. A new Cruise Ship Landscape Park and Cruise Ship Hall, built to expand the Cuntan Central Golden Axis Pier, is located beneath the floating-like building complex. The intervention creates a new link between the neighbouring Pier Park and the Century Cuntan Park, offering visitors with a 100,000 sq.m. green area and the opportunity to fully enjoy the site’s range of uses.

Competition to Design International Cruise Centre in China won by MAD Architects - Sheet4
Chongqing Cuntan Cruise Terminal_©MAD

Urban Public Space | Cruise Centre

The new Cruise Ship Landscape Park and Cruise Ship Hall, built by MAD to extend and improve the Cuntan Central Golden Axis Pier, are located beneath the ‘floating’ building complex. The urban interventions create a 100,000-square-metre urban green area that fits seamlessly with the Central Golden Axis, connecting the nearby Pier Park and Century Cuntan Park. The new concept allows the public to fully experience the site’s range of functions, including admiring the city and the Yangtze from a marine viewpoint, which was formerly restricted for river vessels.

Chongqing Cuntan Cruise Terminal_©MAD

The Cruise Centre Hub is located beneath the Cruise Landscape Park and provides access to the “floating” complex as well as the ground level landscape park. The Cruise Centre’s architecture incorporates skylights to increase natural light within the internal area, but a higher cantilevered structure prevents direct sunlight from being too bright. When finished, the Cuntan International Cruise Centre will combine industrial memories into fully realised urban images, establishing a one-of-a-kind urban icon in Chongqing.

Chongqing Cuntan Cruise Terminal_©MAD

Local officials want to change the area’s urban atmosphere, thus the new concept fits well with that goal. The Chongqing Municipality approved the Cuntan International New Town Master Plan and the Cruise Ship Home Port Area Urban Design in April 2021, establishing the International Cruise Centre’s major initiatives. The framework designates a projected area of roughly 6 square kilometres for the Cuntan International New City, with a core area of 1.6 square kilometres for the Cuntan International Cruise Terminal. The goal of the framework is to establish the world’s premier river cruise port, with an “integrated ship, port, city, tourist, retail, and entertainment” area.

Chongqing Cuntan Cruise Terminal_©MAD


  1. MAD. [online] Available at:

A recently graduated architect, Mohit has a quest to understand the Art and Architecture of our cities. He believes in designing things by understanding the larger context and blending them into the larger environment.