‘Made in China’ isn’t a synonym for being Omnipresent, the dynamic design scene of Shanghai has shattered the glass ceiling by creating a city that showcases one of its kind architecture. Shanghai is a city young by Chinese standards, till 1800 it was just a fishing port, the Opium war then resulted in the formation of how we have known Shanghai today. Shanghai has the best of both worlds, the ancient house’s cityscape and modern architecture create this city that keeps you on your toes. The places to visit in Shanghai reveals itself slowly, below the unfolding of this beautiful city is explained within 10 reasons read ahead to know more about the ‘Oriental pearl.

10 Reasons why Architects should visit Shanghai Sheet1

1. Shikumen | Places to visit in Shanghai

10 Reasons why Architects should visit Shanghai Sheet2

Shanghai, now famous for its metropolitan architecture, still has nooks of its heritage well preserved and used. Shikumen is one such example of the above. Shikumen translated to Stone warehouse gate is a two to three-storied building consisting of a large courtyard built for families to stay in. Early China held about 60% of its Shanghai population living under these houses. They are built using brick and wood that appeared in the 1860s. 

Shikumen are characteristics of traditional Han culture and western culture; they can be described as lane houses in the most western sense. Tianzifang and Xintiandi are the best examples of Shikumen, they are well-preserved areas, which are now reused as high fashion market areas, restaurants with a modern context paying ode to the heritage. 

2. The Roof

10 Reasons why Architects should visit Shanghai Sheet3

Designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel and landscape architecture by ASPECT studios; The roof is an Iconic contemporary office and a commercial hub with interactive spaces in between. Li’long architectural characteristics are adopted in the planning at every stage to pay homage to the heritage of Shanghai and create a space that respects its surrounding urban environment yet stands out through its design individuality. 

The vibrant red and beige brick frame the linear corridors and the plants are planted so to give the view from the inside to the users of the building. 

3. Floating towns | Places to visit in Shanghai

10 Reasons why Architects should visit Shanghai Sheet4

The floating towns or the water towns are one of the main attractions in Shanghai. These towns formed in the years 1300 to 1700 are preserved to date because of their exquisite and one-of-a-kind architecture. These towns are framed with water canals, the canals are lined with streetlights and create a magical experience at night. 

Gondolas were built everywhere to view the canals from in the towns. The maintenance of these towns is highly regarded as it is environment friendly. Wuzhen and Zhuijiajiao are prime examples of floating towns, they are known as the Venice of Shanghai.

4.1961 Port facade

10 Reasons why Architects should visit Shanghai Sheet5

The flagship store of Port’s 1961-store is a creative design approach by the UUfie architects. The design inspiration is drawn from a floating Iceberg. This is achieved by using 2 types of glass blocks which create a grid of glowing glass cubes giving a 3D effect to the structure

The ornamental canopy is formed using satin glass blocks and blasted stainless steel, this allows the structure to show the transformation of form through material and technology. It uses reflective technology in the daytime by reflecting sunlight off of the structure and at night the LED lights lined along the glass block illuminate it giving a crisp ice cut look.

5. Shanghai metro line | Places to visit in Shanghai

10 Reasons why Architects should visit Shanghai Sheet6

The metro line 15 Wuzhong Road station in Shanghai designed by W-mills, Wutobia lab and opened to the public to experience in January of 2021; is a futuristic and minimalistic design. The subways are anything but glamorous in our general world but metro line 15 is here to change that perspective, the subway is designed to create a space that is not just functional but also a symbolic social space. 

The underground line reflects the world above in Shanghai, the skyline of Pudong and Pixi is interpreted below. The catwalk-like station is lined with arched skyscraper silhouettes with blue LED lights that guide the commuter through the station. 

6. Flexible landscape, GOA architects

10 Reasons why Architects should visit Shanghai Sheet7

The Flexible landscape is a conscious art installation in the square of Jing’an temple which is 7m lower than the adjacent road hence giving it an open landscape consideration. The two arc-shaped ridges are placed to form a mountain, popularly addressed as “arc mountain”. 

It comprises 50 pieces of streamline and 20m long wooden bamboo which forms a fluctuating body. Water mist sprays are hidden between the gap of the frame resulting in cooling of the square. This installation is a work of art and an area for other activities.

7. MAM museum (ZHA closeup)

<span style="font-weight: 400;">                      @</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">https://www.archdaily.com/894856/shanghai-modern-art-museum-atelier-deshaus</span>

The Modern art museum (MAM) Shanghai, is situated along the river Huangpu in the corridors of museums and galleries. Atelier Deshaus transformed what was a coal bunker into a contemporary art venue. Industrial architecture is adopted in designing this project, although we are used to the museum being a white box and the art installations highlighted, MAM provides a different experience of the building also being a part of the art displayed. 

Art installation sculptures can also be presented outdoors in the MAM corridors. This space connects the shared cultures of the East and the west.

8. Yu Garden | Places to visit in Shanghai

<span style="font-weight: 400;">                  @</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">https://www.trip.com/travel-guide/shanghai/yu-garden-75615/</span>

A garden oasis in the center of Huangpu Ou, an old city in Shanghai, is a tourist attraction because of its beautiful architecture and distinctive design. This garden was built in 1577 as a gift of leisure by a son to his parents in the Ming dynasty era. The area is 2 hectares comprising six sections according to the Suzhou style. 

The garden also houses a very special stone, the jade stone. There is a rock garden, ancient bridges, and characteristic Chinese architecture present in this classic garden which was created as a space merging poetry and landscape. 

9. M50 art district

<span style="font-weight: 400;">    @</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">https://www.tripstoshanghai.com/attractions/show/shanghai_m50_creative_park.htm</span>

The Moganshan road or the M50 is a former Industrial area, the old factories, warehouses are today converted into art galleries, studios, etc. Shanghai’s very own urban ghetto sibling of Newyork’s Soho is known as an art district. It has the famous Shanghai graffiti wall similar to the Berlin wall. 

It is a transient space in the art scene of Shanghai. It was started in the year 2000 by local artist Xue Song, other artists then followed.

10. Blackstone M+ hotel | Places to visit in Shanghai

<span style="font-weight: 400;">                    @</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">https://www.e-architect.com/shanghai/blackstone-m-hotel-shangha</span>

The Blackstone M+ hotel is a treat to a designer’s sight; situated in the music cradle of Shanghai it is designed and refurbished by designer Huang Quan of WIID studio. The design is an amalgamation of traditional elements with art deco style. The arc-shaped curves from ‘Shikumen’ are adopted. 

Preservation of precious tiles and staircase structures is carried throughout. Each floor sports a unique mosaic tile pattern. The interiors and the structure as a whole is a reflection of Shanghai’s architecture in the best taste.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai
  2. https://archello.com/de/project/shanghai-metro-line
  3. http://cired2020shanghai.org/
  4. https://homeworlddesign.com/blackstone-m-hotel-shanghai-by-wjid-design/

Sonali karekar is a student of Architecture, she is passionate about reading and writing. She believes that spaces and places have stories to tell from their construction to their use. There are many perspectives about an individual built form, she hopes to share hers with you.