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zaha hadid architects plans sanya cultural district with cascading rooftops

a new threshold proposed for sanya harbor


The southern tip of Hainan Island, known for its lush forests, mountain parks, and white sand beaches, will soon see a futuristic cultural district to its urban landscape by Zaha Hadid Architects. As the annual influx of over 80 million tourists continues, the city of Sanya, with its leisure, shopping, and business districts along Sanya Bay, has grown to become home to over a million residents. At the heart of this coastal city stands a harbor encompassing yachting marinas, a cruise ship terminal, and vital commercial and fishing ports. Once built, the cultural district proposed by Zaha Hadid Architects will be anchored at the entrance to Sanya’s harbor.

zaha hadid sanya culturalvisualization © Negativ | @negativ_va



the fluid urban intervention by zaha hadid architects


The Zaha Hadid Architects-designed cultural district is set to redefine the identity of Sanya City. This urban intervention aims to position Sanya as a gateway to the waters of Sanya Bay and the South China Sea beyond. At the core of the design is a central axis that links the new harborside district with the city’s existing urban fabric. This axis will divide the cultural precinct into two distinct zones — a performing arts theater and exhibition galleries on one side, and a commercial center catering to conferences and trade fairs on the other. Both sectors will converge at a new public square opening onto sweeping views of the harbor and welcoming visitors and audiences attending the performances inside.

zaha hadid sanya culturalvisualization © Brick Visual | @brickvisual



a terraced cultural district in sanya city


The highlight of the Sanya Cultural District’s design is its curving, layered rooftops that gently feather and cascade outwards along the central axis. Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, these sculptural elements frame the entrance lobbies of the performing arts theater and the conference center, capturing the sunlight and seem to float above the water like sails in a gentle sea breeze. This composition will create a new landmark with ascending geometries, mirroring the landscapes of Hainan’s interior. As they gracefully ascend, these roofs shelter the entrances of the cultural and conference centers, culminating in layers of public terraces with panoramic views of the harbor.

zaha hadid sanya cultural
visualization © Brick Visual



sustainable goals for a tropical climate


As the Sanya Cultural District will be sited in Hainan’s tropical climate, influenced by monsoons, Zaha Hadid Architects aims to integrate low-carbon design, procurement, construction, and operational strategies. Photovoltaics and rainwater collection systems seamlessly meld with the expansive roof areas, graced with deep overhanging eaves that provide shade to interiors and shelter outdoor public terraces year-round. The district’s orientation, thoughtful composition, and meticulous landscaping harness the power of natural indirect sunlight and onshore winds for natural ventilation.

zaha hadid sanya cultural
visualization © Negativ



A central plant employs high-efficiency equipment and innovative sea water heat exchangers for cooling, while an intelligent building management system adapts shading, lighting, and ventilation for optimal comfort and efficiency. Timber cladding sourced from certified sustainable forests, chosen for its resilience to local coastal weather conditions without chemical treatments, graces the underside of the cultural and conference center’s roofs. Procurement strategies prioritize local and recycled materials for each building within the district, forging an enduring commitment to sustainability.

zaha hadid architects plans sanya cultural district with cascading rooftopsvisualization © Negativ


visualization © Negativ

zaha hadid architects plans sanya cultural district with cascading rooftops
visualization © Negativ


visualization © Negativ


project info:


project title: Sanya Cultural District

architecture: Zaha Hadid Architects | @zahahadidarchitects

location: Sanya City, China

visualizations: © Negativ | @negativ_va, Brick Visual | @brickvisual


design: Patrik Schumacher

ZHA competition project directors: Nils Fischer, Lei Zheng, Jakub Klaska
ZHA competition project architects: Chun-Yen Chen, Matthew Gabe
ZHA competition team: Shajay Bhooshan, Joshua Anderson, Vishu Bhooshan, Daniel Boran, Chun-Yen Chen, Hung-Da Chien, Nils Fischer, Matthew Gabe, Charles Harris, Jinqi Huang, Yen-Fen Huang, Ivan Hewitt, Jakub Klaska, Hannah Kopeliovitch Simmons, Henry Louth, Sonia Magdziarz, Patrik Schumacher, Svenja Siever, Tul Srisompun, Yaobin Wang, Yutong Xia, Simon Yu, Lei Zheng, Han Hsun Hsieh

client: The People’s Government of Sanya City



executive architects, local architects, structural engineers, quantity surveyor, M&E engineering, transport consultant, fire engineer, site surveyor: Arcplus Institute of Shanghai Architectural Design & Research

transport consultant: Parking Management Organization

landscape consultant, lighting design: ZHA
acoustic, theatre, consultant: Cundall

signage design: SHIYU Urban Signage Planning and Design

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