ASPECT Studios creates a mountainside gateway in Qingdao

Nestled within a mountain range northwest of Qingdao, the Tour of Life is a launchpad for exploring nature. Sitting on the former site of a derelict commercial complex, the project acts as a restorative natural destination for people wanting to explore the surrounding river, lake and mountains. Comprising a commercial avenue and striking events space, surrounded by a thriving natural landscape, the Tour of Life is a place where people can come together and traverse an elegant sequence of outdoor spaces that each connect the visitor with nature in a unique and particular way.

Visitors arrive at a 400-metre commercial and lifestyle street, which wends its way through the mountain valley. The ground plane negotiates several complex level changes, threading together retail tenancies with an accessible and highly connective outdoor treatment. Most spaces are approachable from various directions, making for a more complex pedestrian experience than a linear shopping street might offer.

Care was taken to ensure restaurants and cafes could extend their seating into the streets, ensuring activation throughout the day and evenings. By creating various distinct outdoor spaces, the visitor is reminded of the intimate scale of the area’s traditional streets, with sight lines out to the mountains and forests a constant reminder of the natural setting.

This corridor terminates at a major outdoor gathering place and exhibition park. Intended to host major events and home to several striking event buildings, the open space is animated by water features and trees that appear to erupt from the paving. Held in place by banks of vibrant native planting, the plaza manages the visitor’s experience by acting as a jumping-off point for the destinations and experiences surrounding it.

Stephen Buckle, Studio Director of ASPECT Studios’ Shanghai studio, said, “The main driver of our response was to use native plants and the seasonal change of colour as a primary display element throughout the shopping street and around the plaza.

“With our collaborators, we’ve managed to repurpose this derelict site into a unique, family- and community-oriented destination in the foothills of the mountains.”

The project offers a wide range of opportunities for engaging with nature, from strolling through a stand of seasonally changing trees, exploring a hedge maze, and soaring above the park on a zipline. 

For ASPECT Studios, the premise of the design was to root the newly built elements in a robust and demurring landscape that directs attention at all times to plants and the mountain backdrop.

Tour of Life

Location: Qingdao, China

Landscape Architect: ASPECT Studios

Client: Sunac

Photography: Lu Bing

About Damian Holmes 3313 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at