Shimao Quarry Intercontinental Hotel

Shanghai, China

The hotel is located in an abandoned 1950’s andesite quarry in the Songjiang District. Andesite takes its name from a type of viscous lava flow that forms thick drifts and dome shapes. The rock walls of the quarry reveal a geological history, an ancient drift of lava.

Interestingly the native andesite stone formations of the quarry and of the nearby Tianma Mountain are home to a Chinese landscape painting style known as the Songjiang School. Formed in the Late Ming Period of 1567-1644, the Songjiang School of painting created a foundation for the later Shanghai School. One could argue the native stone formations inspired the landscape paintings.

For the landscape design of this project BAM was immediately inspired by the natural power of the quarry space. ‘We hope to fill this quarry with a raging techno party one day’ remarked Jake Walker after one site visit. Little did Walker know he would have to wait another 5 years for that party to take place.

For architecture inserted into such a powerful site condition there is an immediate juxtaposition which lends the architecture strength. The geometry of the architecture stands out from the irregular forms of the surrounding quarry. But given that within the quarry nothing is ‘natural’ and the entire landscape is made by humans, it becomes difficult to understand where architectural design ends and landscape design begins.

BAM’s landscape design of the level B14 deck includes the design of a piece of the pool house. BAM worked with project architects, engineers, and interior designers, to lead the design of the pool house so the structure could more closely integrate with the landscape.

Elsewhere the B14 deck features a series of stepped terraces adjacent to the bar, places for enjoying a cocktail and watching the sunset over the edge of the quarry. At the Southern edge a series of luxury cabanas emerge as copper covered garden terraces with leather railings. Finally, the entry features a cascade fountain which completes the architectural metaphor of the waterfall descending into the quarry.

While the architects create metaphors of waterfalls the landscape architects are tasked with creating the real thing. Over the course 3 years BAM worked closely with hydraulic engineers, biofiltration experts, and lake specialists to create a hidden pump system that shoots water the 70 vertical meters from the quarry pool up to the ground level. There it runs to a series of biofilters and is stored in large holding pool. The pool creates a 3m wide cascade which BAM located to spill onto a lower terrace, and create a second 5m fall into the quarry pool.

The quarry pool is almost 70m below the ground level and more than 20m deep in some places. As a safety measure, the pumping system is designed with built in redundancy and power backup. Additionally, If large amounts of rain are forecasted the pump system automatically begins lowering the quarry water level in advance of a storm. In addition, the design faces the challenge of creating a balanced ecosystem in the quarry pool. A specialized mix of aquatic creatures and plants is introduced to create a balanced and healthy pool of the filtered quarry water.

At the ground level, the landscape design of the entry sequence includes tall stone walls holding back the earth and trees. It is as if the entry is carved into the earth, and as you enter you feel you are viewing the compressed stone of the earth itself. BAM’s landscape is intended to make guests immediately feel this compression of actually entering into the earth, and then you feel a release as you approach the hotel entry. Here through the glass of the lobby you begin to taste the first glimpses of the expanse of the quarry itself.

During the design process of the project BAM proposed an adventure loop path around the top of the quarry for the hotel guests. At the Southwest edge of the site BAM developed playground gardens with an overlook cafe building. Although these design elements can be seen in many of the plans and renderings of the project, they are not built.