SPARCH Architects, in charge of the nine-building campus around Shanghai’s new cruise-ship terminal, has released renderings of its crown jewel: a collection of pod-like restaurants and bars suspended by cables from a 130-foot-high, glass-clad archway. The so-called “Shanghai Chandelier” was designed in part in response to some Shanghai city planners’ desire to open up the notoriously jam-packed city in anticipation of the 2010 Expo, themed around “Better City, Better Life.” Lifting the restaurants off the ground might crowd the skyline, but it offers views through the arch to a new waterfront park.
That park is there because most of the $260 million, 2.8 million-square-foot terminal isn’t there: it’s underground. The terminal master plan involves a network of courtyards carved into the landscape with buildings sunk into them. The first construction phase finished in October, and the entire terminal is set to open in May, in time for the Expo.
With a terminal this enormous, China is betting that the cruise industry booms in Asia. It’s been growing–Royal Caribbean started to operate out of Dubai in January with cruises around the Middle East and Shanghai saw more than 100 ships dock in 2007, up from only 10 in 2004–but the new terminal might be overly ambitious. About 150,000 cruise tourists came through the port in 2008. The new terminal is built to handle a yearly load of 1.5 million. Will it have to? It’s designed around 88,000-ton ships–huge, but not as big as behemoths like Royal Caribbean’s 220,000-ton Oasis of the Seas. (That ship needed a new terminal at Port Everglades, Florida designed just for it.) That’s because the Shanghai terminal’s site on the Huangpu River isn’t that great a port for these giant new ships. The biggest of the big can’t even get to the terminal because the river is too narrow and the Yangpu Bridge over it is too low for them to fit under. Most big ships, then, go to Hong Kong, or another port on the mouth of the Yangtze, outside of Shanghai. Royal Caribbean says it’ll use smaller, “intimate cruise ships” in the new port–a fitting oxymoron for a city bent on balancing smart urbanism with boomtown extravagance.
[Photos by Christian Richters]