foster + partners has won a competition to design the new headquarters for ‘alibaba’ — the world’s largest online retailer and e-commerce company — in shanghai. situated at xuhui riverside, with views towards the huangpu river and the pudong central business district, the building is formed around a central heart that opens up to create a large and inviting ‘urban room’. this creates an active social core, where viewing terraces overlook the central space. the architects designed the building to be a landmark for the company, with features that showcase its working culture to the public.

foster partners alibaba HQ
all images © foster + partners



‘our design emphasizes the importance of communication, the integrity of the working community and above all, the creation of an image that reflects the standing of alibaba,’ says luke fox, head of studio, foster + partners. ‘the scheme is truly designed from the inside out, centered on a dynamic, sheltered public space capitalizing on its amazing location with its views of the huangpu river and the bund.’

foster partners alibaba HQ



foster + partners says that the building’s form has been guided by a design process that uses a genetic algorithm to evolve the optimal massing. this algorithm combines several aspects that are crucial to the project to create the most appropriate form. these factors include environmental conditions, views, and specific area requirements. the design optimizes the massing to provide the best year-round user comfort in the central public space, protecting it from winter winds and the summer sun.

foster partners alibaba HQ



meanwhile, the desk arrangements, break-out spaces and meeting rooms have been configured to encourage collaboration and teamwork. it is hoped that visual and physical connectivity will encourage interactions, while natural light and external spaces animate the workspaces and create a more focused and engaged workforce. following a modular approach, the design will utilize off-site production for quality control, reducing wastage, and minimizing on-site operations to create an efficient construction program.



project info:


name: alibaba HQ
location: shanghai, china
design: foster + partners
client: alibaba
status: competition winning design