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Chicago architect wins design competition for new urban renewal complex in China

Chicago architect Goettsch Partners (GP) has won a competition to design a 111,500-sq-m urban renewal project in Jinan, capital of the province of Shandong in northeast China.The project is currently in design, with construction scheduled to start later this year and completion anticipated in the second quarter of 2026.

Honglou Plaza has long been considered the epicenter for the city and is home to one of the oldest cathedrals in the region.

The new mixed-use development features a series of buildings arranged to create view corridors, culminating at the cathedral and reinforcing the architectural significance of the historic structure. The program includes 41,500 square meters of retail, 36,000 square meters of hospitality, an 18,000-square-meter transportation hub, 12,000 square meters of innovative office space, and a 3,000-square-meter cultural museum.

The unique architectural expression for the complex is inspired by the soaring vaults and elegant archways found in the neighboring cathedral – geometries reinterpreted in a modern way to provide scale and rhythm for the buildings while using local limestone with bronze accents to establish a campus character among the three parcels.

Two grand interior spaces have been designed to embody the spirit of the local culture. Termed the “Lotus Atrium” and “Lotus Gallery,” these multistory public spaces employ structural solutions inspired by the lotus flower that is the symbol for the city.

“We believed that a successful proposal must be respectful of the rich architectural context found at Honglou Plaza,” said Paul De Santis, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, partner and co-design director at GP. “The new complex reinterprets elements of the local culture in a contemporary manner, ensuring that the architecture is unique yet cohesive with its surroundings.”

Leveraging the neighboring university population, as well as the high volume of visitors to Honglou Plaza daily, the design includes office and museum spaces on the upper floors, retail and hospitality programs on lower floors.Three new sunken plazas provide direct access to the existing subway station, and new basement links will connect the parcels to neighboring below-grade networks, further extending the pedestrian-focused nature of the area.

“The overall vision for the project was to design a mixed-use complex with a unified character,” said James Zheng, AIA, LEED AP, CEO and president at GP, “one that would be a seamless, vibrant addition to the great civic destination that is Honglou Plaza.”

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