UNStudio, in collaboration with Nihon Sekkei, recently completed the Shanghai Jiuguang Center. The design for this brand new retail destination, which sits in the middle of a bustling Shanghai neighbourhood merges an advanced commercial ecosystem with a human-centric, customer-friendly destination. Collaboration was key for the creation of a symbiotic relationship between the commercial aspirations and the architectural interventions. While Nihon Sekkei were asked to develop the outer shell of the retail center, UNStudio was tasked with fleshing out the mall as a placemaking destination for customers and the larger community. This included the design of the inner courtyard and its facades, the full interior of the mall and a public rooftop terrace. User experience forms the core of UNStudio’s design. Looking at the numerous ways users could engage with the various spaces and creating curated shopping experiences for different users informed the design of the building. This resulted in creating a synergy between the architectural and interior design, the building scale and the human scale, the geometry and materials and the inside-outside relationship. The design includes a central courtyard and landscape area that sits at the heart of the mall. This courtyard not only serves as an event space for the mall itself, but also provides a destination for the wider community. An integral element of the central courtyard is the sunken area with integrated seating, planting and lighting that is also designed to be used for events. As such the courtyard becomes a destination both during the day and in the evenings. The courtyard landscape links the basement levels and the upper levels by way of a generous staircase and escalators. In addition to providing direct access on ground floor, the articulation and horizontal window bands in the facades surrounding the courtyard create a strong visual connection between the external space and the interior public areas on all the levels. The courtyard facade was conceived as a pearl set within its shell, referring to the tessellated enclosure of the exterior facade, which opens up to a fluid experience and a mother-of-pearl effect as you enter the central courtyard.