Alibaba’s blocky HQ focuses on workspace flexibility and energy efficiency

Prestigious US architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has revealed its design for a new headquarters for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Featuring a chunky overall form meant to resemble a cloud, the building will boast some carefully considered sustainability features and will be flexible and future-proof.

The Alibaba Shanghai Campus Headquarters will measure 75,000 sq m (roughly 807,000 sq ft) and, as its name suggests, will be situated on Alibaba’s existing campus in Shanghai’s Xuhui District. While we admittedly can’t really see the cloud influence in the renders provided, which show cuboid forms jutting out of the exterior, SOM leans into it and says the design is also meant to reference Alibaba’s considerable cloud-based digital presence.

The building will be centered around a large courtyard space and a main principle behind its design is that it will offer layout flexibility. It will include indoor and outdoor work spaces, terrace areas, and column-free offices that make it relatively easy for Alibaba to chop and change office size and desk placement to meet requirements.

“The only constant is change is one of Alibaba’s guiding principles,” explained SOM Design Partner Scott Duncan. “We took this ethos to heart, designing a workplace capable of evolving and adapting to new needs, teams, and technologies over time. The headquarters is designed in dialogue with the existing campus, inverting the neighboring building as it unfolds across cantilevered masses and staggered, green terraces.”

The Alibaba Shanghai Campus Headquarters' sustainability features will include green roof sections and rainwater harvesting
The Alibaba Shanghai Campus Headquarters’ sustainability features will include green roof sections and rainwater harvesting


The Alibaba Shanghai Campus Headquarters is designed to exceed the requirements for the LEED green building standard, and China’s own Green Star certification, and will include multiple green roof areas, as well as a focus on natural ventilation, which has become a key concern in post-COVID-19 workplaces.

According to SOM, its high-performance glazed facade is designed to reduce solar heat gain by up to 40% and will also minimize glare. An AI-controlled shading system will also respond to the Sun’s movement in real time and further mitigate solar heat gain, while up at the top of the building will be rainwater harvesting systems.

We’ve no word yet on when the Alibaba Shanghai Campus Headquarters is due to be completed.

Source: SOM

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