MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong, and in collaboration with the China Academy of Building Research (CASR) have won an international competition for the design of the Cuntan International Cruise Centre in Chongqing, China.
The project site, currently a cargo terminal covering 66,000 square meters, is located in Chongqing's Liangjiang New Area. The site and associated cruise terminal sit within the Cuntan Port area, allowing access to the Yangtze River. Under MAD’s plans, the site will become a 65,000-square-metre international cruise terminal and city complex, hosting a 15,000-square-metre cruise port and 50,000 square metres for commercial space.
"Chongqing has mountains and waters,” said Ma Yansong, reflecting on the vision behind the winning scheme. “However, the Yangtze River is more than just a natural landscape in Chongqing. Because of human activities such as shipping traffic and industrial transport, this mountain city is also full of energy and movement. We want to transform this energy in Chongqing from traces of industry into an energy that stimulates the imagination. People can feel the kinetic energy of the city here, but also imagine the public spaces of the future."
"Gantry Crane" – Science fiction, and a walking city
While visiting the site, MAD team was inspired by the large orange gantry cranes that dominate the freight terminal. “These gantry cranes became living alien creatures that gave a sense of surrealism,” Ma noted. “The new scheme is therefore not only about reflecting the industrial colours of the past, but also about respecting this original surrealism. We have designed the elevated buildings as if they were a futuristic, free-walking city, seemingly arriving here from elsewhere, and perhaps travelling elsewhere once again someday."
MAD’s scheme, named the Yangtze River Skywalk, is a 430-metre-long complex comprised of six separate and interconnected elevated buildings inspired by the gantry cranes. From a distance, the buildings rise and fall, recreating the rhythm of the industrial freight terminal cranes in both form and colour, while their elevated position above the ground allows for open, unobstructed views of the river. The building's aluminium curtain wall offers the site a surreal feel, bringing a contemporary freshness to the building’s mixed-use tenants, which include a parlour, shops, and restaurants.
Urban Public Space – A layering of urbanism, and a landscaped green axis
Underneath the 'floating' building complex is the new Cruise Ship Landscape Park and Cruise Ship Hall, designed by MAD to extend and enhance the Cuntan Central Golden Axis Pier. The urban interventions form a new link between the adjacent Pier Park and the Century Cuntan Park, creating a 100,000-square-metre urban green space that blends naturally with the Central Golden Axis. The new scheme allows the public to fully experience the diversity of uses across the site, enjoying the scenery of the city and the Yangtze from a maritime perspective, a condition otherwise reserved for river vessels.
Located underneath the Cruise Landscape Park is the Cruise Centre Hub, providing access to the ‘floating’ complex and the ground level landscape park. The design of the Cruise Centre includes skylights to enhance natural light within the interior space, while an upper cantilevered building avoids overbearing direct sunlight.
When completed, the Cuntan International Cruise Centre will transform industrial memories into a fully realised piece of urban imagery, creating a unique urban landmark in Chongqing.
The new scheme sits within a wider aspiration from local officials to transform the area’s urban environment. In April 2021, the Chongqing Municipality adopted the Cuntan International New Town Master Plan and the Cruise Ship Home Port Area Urban Design, determining the key projects for the International Cruise Centre. The framework allocates a planned area of approximately 6 square kilometres for the Cuntan International New City, within which the core area of the Cuntan International Cruise Terminal has a planned area of 1.6 square kilometres. The framework’s ambition is to create an “integrated ship, port, city, tourism, shopping and entertainment" district: the world’s preeminent river cruise port.
Construction of the Cuntan International Cruise Centre is expected to begin in November 2022 and be completed by 2027.