Currently Reading

Unicorn Island’s first building nears completion

Urban Planning

Unicorn Island’s first building nears completion

The building is the first on the 67-hectare island.

By David Malone, Associate Editor | January 23, 2020
Unicorn Island aerial

All renderings courtesy MIR

China has become home to a third of the world’s “unicorn companies,” technology start-ups valued at over a billion US dollars, with Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, developing into a hub where the computer chips for half the world’s laptops are produced. The area is also a leading producer of mobile hardware. The Tianfu New Area area to the south of the city is now being developed as an ecologically sustainable civic, business, and residential center for China’s technology and research sectors.

Dubbed Unicorn Island, the Zaha Hadid-designed master plan is well underway as its first building, the Start-Up exhibition and conference center, nears completion. The firm did not release many details about the exhibitions center, but did release a new video showcasing the building in its yet-to-be-completed form.



The 67-hectare master plan will help foster the continued growth of China’s digital economy. The mixed-use master plan for 70,000 researchers, office staff, residents, and visitors will include integrated clusters of buildings that surround the island’s central plaza and metro station. The radial layout enables the entire island to be accessed quickly via walking or by bike and newly developed green civic spaces will be interspersed with the building clusters.


See Also: Headspace expands Santa Monica corporate HQ


Unicorn Island building cluster


As part of the project, wetlands of the Tianfu New Area will be reestablished and will serve as water conservation, flood control, and recreation area. Unicorn Island will incorporate natural water management systems and innovations in urban farming technologies to provide residents, workers, and visitors with fresh, locally grown produce.

While the first structure on the island is nearing completion, Zaha Hadid has not released a completion date for the island as a whole.


Unicorn Island building


Zaha Hadid's Unicorn Island


Unicorn Island building close up


Unicorn Island green civic space

Related Stories

Urban Planning | Aug 16, 2021

Building with bikes in mind: How cities can capitalize on the pandemic’s ‘bike boom’ to make streets safer for everyone

Since early 2020, Americans have been forced to sequester themselves in their homes with outdoor activities, in most cases, being the sole respite for social distancing. And many of people are going back to the basics with a quintessential outdoor activity: biking. Bike sales absolutely skyrocketed during the pandemic, growing by 69% in 2020. 

Resiliency | Jun 24, 2021

Oceanographer John Englander talks resiliency and buildings [new on HorizonTV]

New on HorizonTV, oceanographer John Englander discusses his latest book, which warns that, regardless of resilience efforts, sea levels will rise by meters in the coming decades. Adaptation, he says, is the key to future building design and construction.

Urban Planning | May 3, 2021

SWA/Balsley unveils Nelson Mandela Park Master Plan for Rotterdam

The conceptual plan provides much-needed central neighborhood and civic open space in the city’s South Maashaven district.

University Buildings | Apr 29, 2021

The Weekly Show, April 29, 2021: COVID-19's impact on campus planning, and bird management strategies

This week on The Weekly show, BD+C Senior Editor John Caulfield interviews a duo of industry experts on 1) how campus planning has changed during the pandemic and 2) managing bird infestations on construction sites and completed buildings.

Urban Planning | Dec 6, 2020

Ford lays out plans for mobility innovation district in Detroit

Its centerpiece is an abandoned train depot whose architecture and decay reflect two sides of this city’s past.

Resiliency | Nov 5, 2020

CRE investors are concerned that cities aren’t resilient enough for climate change

A new ULI-Heitman report states that the biggest challenge to valuation is measuring urban risk mitigation.

Multifamily Housing | Oct 22, 2020

The Weekly show: Universal design in multifamily housing, reimagining urban spaces, back to campus trends

BD+C editors speak with experts from KTGY Architecture + Planning, LS3P, and Omgivning on the October 22 episode of "The Weekly." The episode is available for viewing on demand.

AEC Tech | Jan 16, 2020

EC firms with a clear ‘digital roadmap’ should excel in 2020

Deloitte, in new report, lays out a risk mitigation strategy that relies on tech.

Urban Planning | Jan 13, 2020

Henning Larsen designs all-timber neighborhood for Copenhagen

The project hopes to set a standard for how modern communities can live in harmony with nature.

Urban Planning | Jan 8, 2020

BIG partners with Toyota to unveil Toyota Woven City

It will be the world’s first urban incubator dedicated to the advancement of all aspects of mobility.

More In Category

Magazine Subscription

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.


Follow BD+C: