The Ring reimagines experienced based retail destinations

Nestled in Chongqing’s urban heart, ASPECT Studios has crafted a journey through fantasy and natural wonder at The Ring, a landmark community-oriented retail destination.

The Ring pushes the boundaries of the traditional retail environment, which has been turned on its head in recent years by online shopping culture and the pandemic. As the first of Hongkong Land’s new experience-based retail destinations, the project shifts the emphasis from commercial exchange to social exchange and connection to nature. The provision of much-needed accessible public open space, a multitude of facilities, and unique indoor and outdoor experiences are tailored for the enjoyment of a diverse community.

In a city as dense and as large as Chongqing, the reinsertion of nature back into urban life requires an imaginative solution. ASPECT’s design spins a narrative inspired by the natural environment, with visitors embarking on a multi-dimensional voyage from the moment they arrive.

This journey begins in the urban arrival park, which mimics the dreamy undulations of the sea current. ASPECT Studios incorporated locally-sourced materials to reflect oceanic characteristics and movements. A metaphorical school of “manta rays,” sketched out in groupings of facilities, spaces, lookouts, experiences and shaded seating planters, reflects the idea of community.

The impression of light fading into the depths of the ocean is represented in the tonal transitions of terraces, steps and level changes, which also allow the urban park to mitigate the significant site levels. This also creates a series of usable and accessible community spaces, including art, exhibitions, community gathering, shaded relaxation and active water play.

From the urban park, visitors travel to the community plaza, an event and gathering space framed on either side by elevated lookouts and sculptural artworks and enclosed by terrace seating. The interactive sculptural artwork mimics the form of a seashell, allowing visitors to explore as they traverse a cave-like space to reach the lower level and take in the delightful view of a 20-metre-high dancing fountain. The urban arrival park serves the local community of over 50,000 residents by creating a space to meet and celebrate holidays and festive events. The northern edge of the plaza contains a lookout space floating over the terrace, allowing people to explore the planting, acting as a refuge in the shade of the trees.

At the Ring’s core, visitors find themselves within an open-air dining street inspired by a forest valley. They can experience and explore nature on multiple levels, surrounded by dense planting displays. Misting systems and a valley water feature provide passive cooling and a unique setting for visitors to enjoy the many cafes and restaurants set among the planting, creating a place to relax, connect and explore.

At the highest point of the development, the Sky Gardens provide a peaceful retreat from the busy levels below, allowing people to meander and explore drifts of seasonal plants. The planting design of the 50,000 square metres of landscape includes local species, which are lower maintenance and drought tolerant. The planting selection includes many flowering plants to create a biodiverse landscape for pollinating insects and wildlife.

The Ring reinvents the traditional principle of retail, addressing critical urban challenges and mapping out the future of this location. By focusing on people and community and providing meaningful publicly accessible open space over short-term gain and commercial dominance, not only have we provided the much- needed public realm facilities, we have also created an inspirational and unique destination for people of the city to explore.

Stephen Buckle, ASPECT Studios’ Shanghai Studio Director

The grounds of the complex take visitors on a journey that elevates the retail experience while at the same time expanding what that experience is and reimagining what it could be.

The Ring demonstrates how ASPECT Studios recontextualizes city life with its urban projects. 

The Ring

Location: Intersection of Hu Cai Road and Jin Zhou Avenue, Yubei District, Chongqing, P.R. China

Landscape Architecture: ASPECT Studios

Principal Landscape Architect: Stephen Buckle

ASPECT Design Team: Sam Xu, Cherry Lei, Jenny Ren, Chase Qiu, Chiachi Chen, Eric Qian, Jay Yang 

Architect: PHA

Client: Hongkong Land

Hongkong Land Team: Ashley Qian, Qiuqi Liu, Yu Zheng

Photography: Wenjie Wang, xf photography, Hongkong Land, ASPECT Studios

About Damian Holmes 3276 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