Genetic algorithm’: Foster + Partners’ design picked for new Alibaba HQ in Shanghai

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has picked Foster + Partners’ design for its new headquarters in Shanghai.

Announcing its competition win today, the architect said the "truly inside out" design emerged with help from a "genetic algorithm" that crunched essential parameters.

It also presupposes modular construction for quality control and site efficiency.

The signature building would showcase Alibaba’s "unique working culture" to the public, the architect said.

Luke Fox, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners said: "We are delighted to be designing the new Shanghai headquarters for Alibaba, the world’s largest online retailer and e-commerce company.

"Our 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."

Situated at the new Xuhui Riverside district, the building is takes shape around a "central heart" that will be a "large public urban room" into which people are invited.

The building’s "central heart" will be a "large public urban room" (Foster + Partners)

"The building is designed to be extremely transparent, allowing people a glimpse into the world of Alibaba as well as preserving views to the outside," Foster + Partners said.

The building’s form was derived by "an innovative design process that uses a genetic algorithm to evolve the optimal massing".

The algorithm combines several aspects that are crucial to the project such as, being highly responsive to the environmental conditions, maximising outside views, and the specific area requirements for different functions, to create the most appropriate form.

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.

The desk arrangements, break-out spaces and meeting rooms are all carefully considered to encourage collaboration and teamwork.

Following a modular approach, the design will use off-site production for quality control, reducing wastage, and minimising on-site operations to create an efficient construction programme.

Images courtesy of Foster + Partners

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