The Alibaba Headquarters in Hangzhou establishes new international workplace standards in China, providing 150,000 square metres of flexible open plan office space within a campus style layout. Alibaba is China’s leading e-commerce company and operates the world’s largest online marketplaces for both international and domestic China trade. The dynamic campus accommodates approximately 9,000 Alibaba employees and has been designed to reflect the interconnection, diversity and vitality of the company.
The master plan principles for the Headquarters are based on the concepts of connectivity, clarity and community – concepts that are also vital to Alibaba’s e-commerce business. These principles guided all design decisions from the single workstation to the greater workplace community.
Developed collaboratively by a multidisciplinary team including HASSELL architects, interior designers and landscape architects, the campus is arranged around a central open space or ‘common’ surrounded by a cluster of buildings or ‘neighbourhoods’ that vary in height from four to seven storeys.
The built form and the designed ‘spaces between places’ are integrated so that each defines the other. The grand central space is complemented by a series of more intimate gardens that nurture the individual within the larger corporate community. The humanised scale of the built form and the long, narrow floorplates help to create a strong sense of place at a legible scale, and establish physical connection throughout the campus. Visual permeability – or the ability to see into and across the major courtyards into other parts of the complex – is also key to achieving the sense of community and connectivity.
The Hangzhou context has been embraced with garden networks and sunshading screens that represent Chinese ice-pattern window screens which are prominent throughout the city’s renowned historical gardens. The sustainable design incorporates features to minimise the campus’ environmental impacts while maximising its contribution to the health, wellbeing and productivity of its population.
The flexible, open plan workplace has been designed to encourage informal and creative meetings throughout the complex. Hubs, internal and external streets, bridges, roof terraces and strategically placed destination points contribute to the collaborative nature of the workplace. Buildings and floorplates have been arranged and the facade has been designed to maximise access to natural light and air flow to all workstations. Horizontal sunshades on the south facade cut out mid-afternoon sun, reducing the need for cooling. Vertical sunshades cut out western sun and openable windows on opposite facades promote cross ventilation.
Opened in October 2009, the built outcome has remained true to the original design aspiration and reinforces Alibaba’s corporate community aspirations while establishing new international standards in workplace design.