Xuhui Report Spreads Alley

Access to open, active public space is a critical component of a healthy, livable city. In densely populated urban neighborhoods, such access is often limited. In these communities, every square meter of open space is a valuable opportunity to activate and enliven the public life of the neighborhood and increase the quality of life for its inhabitants.


This study identifies opportunities to re-think and re-activate existing, often overlooked public spaces throughout the Xuhui District of Shanghai. From alleys to underpasses, under-utilized plazas, and larger open spaces, this study identifies distinct opportunities to incorporate new programs and design concepts into the existing fabric of the district. Representing a variety of ubiquitous urban space types, these case studies not only showcase the opportunities for creating active public space in Xuhui: they are examples for similar re-activation initiatives in neighborhoods throughout Shanghai.

Alley: A Case Study

The Alley connecting Tanyaoquiao Road and Wanping Road is an under-utilized civic asset in the middle of a thriving district of Shanghai. Surrounded by a variety of programs and uses, the site has the potential to become an activated public space. This study reviews three potential program uses, and shows how these programs might be integrated into both the narrow confines of the existing alley and the broader context of the surrounding neighborhood.

Occupying Linear Space

Regardless of specific programs, the specific dimensions of the alleyway offer a few key design opportunities. First, any design must help create a more diverse and exiting spatial experience for pedestrian walking along the alley. To accomplish this, this concept design creates a number of primary thresholds along the alley walk. Developed as a series of canopied and enclosed spaces, these areas make use of the alley's wider segments to support potential spacial program areas. These thresholds also help define outdoor rooms along the alleys's pedestrian sequence. By alternating between open spaces and more programmed thresholds, this concept design creates a fluid landscape experience while also offering spaces which can support special programs and uses.

Use Scenario 1 - Street Sports Rift

Alley 01 Athletics 1

The "Street Sports Rift" activates the alley with two typologies of active fitness: linear and episodic. The pathway of the alley supports linear, and individual athletics such as running, jogging, skating, and traverse rock climbing while the wider canopied areas of the alley can support the more episodic athletic programs associated with circuit training. Together, these programs create a linear athletic park space.

Use Scenario 2- Foodie's Secret Walk

Throughout the world, some of the best urban spaces support cafe cultures. Given its human scale, existing canopy of tees, and the surrounding context of shopping and food venues, the alley is a prime location to support a few small-scale cafe spaces. These program areas activate the main canopied spaces of the design and integrate seamlessly within the larger context of a linear, pedestrian garden space. Given the small-scale nature of the potential business sites, these spaces could sponsor pop-up cafes and other scale-business entrepreneurial ventures, creating a hidden cafe garden in the middle of this thriving neighborhood.

Alley 02 Food 1

Use Scenario 3 - Innovation Alley

Alley 03 Innovation 1

Perhaps the most radical potential use for the site, this "innovation alley" would support a small community of entrepreneurs, making innovation in the Xuhui district a visible and activating component of the civic landscape. In this concept, the alley becomes both a garden and a gallery. Its enclosures are developed in two types: planted walls and digital display walls and canopies. These display surfaces become activated as temporary gallery walls, showcasing new innovations and ideas being generated by the entrepreneurs-in-residence on site.