Research, Technology and Profound Harmony Come Together

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A deeper look at the award-winning design of the Shanghai Advanced Research Institute

Upon navigation to the Moore Rubell Yudell website, the first sentiment to fade in on a list of scrolling philosophies is: “Building & Inhabiting in Harmony with Nature.” A perfect illustration of this concept is Merit Award for Urban design they received in 2012 for the Shanghai Advanced Research Institute.

An innovative, memorable and humane place for study and research, the SARI design process began with a Master Plan solution. The Master Plan solution incorporates state-of-the-art educational and technological practices while providing an abundance of flexible learning spaces. The areas of SARI focus on faculty-student interaction in a wide variety of settings. The Master Plan allows for flexible programmatic implementation in the future and creates a truly sustainable community that honors and supports the campus’ occupants while simultaneously establishing world-recognized leadership in addressing global climate change.

This campus design includes the following project elements: academic facilities, cultural, commercial, retail, housing and sports/recreation. The result of a collaboration the team from Moore Ruble Yudell included Buzz Yudell, FAIA, Partner; John Ruble, FAIA, Partner; Michael Martin, AIA, Principal; James Mary O’Connor, AIA, Principal; and Anthony Wang, AIA, Senior Associate.

Grown from an in-depth exploratory process, The Master Plan gathers the best features from earlier versions and creates a complete, coherent whole. Each component of the campus’ program has been carefully evaluated to determine its academic, social and spatial needs guiding its proper placement within the campus fabric. Relationships between academic colleges, research facilities, cultural support and the residential community, as well as influences from other related research facilities and the surrounding context, have influenced the placement of each.

Undertaken as a part of a regional Master Plan developed by the City of Shanghai, the previously cleared and partially developed site includes primary roads, underground utilities, a network of waterways and a number of related planned and constructed research facilities. The context of existing and planned research and urban features set the stage for the visioning of a new academic environment that is both connected to its surrounding context and developed to have its own sense of Identity and Place. Addressing these linked requirements directly guided the shaping of the master plan solution.

Mixing Land Uses / Building Densely
The Master Plan solution mixes land uses in a dense pattern of study and work, residential and recreational opportunities, and reduction of energy and resource consumption in a variety of ways including limiting private transportation needs, support for shared and alternative transportation, consolidation of essential services and energy transmission, reduction of goods distribution and the preservation of open space. This rich matrix of use is essential in fostering a sense of community and identity within a sustainable environment.

Linking each primary program element is a diverse collection of pedestrian, vehicle, and water routes leading through a variety of landscaped and covered streets, quads and courts. Circulation patterns are developed with special attention and care weaving these into a meaningful whole creating –

  • Clarity of organization and way-finding
  • Unifying elements such as arcades, paving, special plantings, art, and lighting all create a whole and understandable campus setting
  • Connections exist on numerous levels—underground, surface and bridges above

The collection of spaces envisioned provides settings for educational and social networks. The outdoor and indoor environments work synergistically to support both resident and visitor populations. This social network intends to address the needs of two people talking on a bench, to groups gathered to discuss their latest research over coffee, to large presentations or performances. Spaces that are provided include:

  • Social Gathering within a high-tech environment – characterized by The Gallery, a lively covered street providing a setting for lounges, study, cafes, group gathering and event spaces of a wide variety of sizes
  • Performance or presentation settings distributed throughout the university and research settings
  • Quiet, contemplative settings – from intimate courtyards to The Great Lawn
  • A wide variety of refreshment and dining options distributed throughout the campus – both within the academic and research environments to the active, café lined Village Promenade
  • Recreation fields, both formal and informal recreation, as well as indoor venues including the multipurpose gymnasium and supporting settings for physical training
  • Opportunities to connect sub-grade and surface patterns of activity – programmed space, parking, the new metro line – through a rich collection of light wells, sloped grading, generous ramps and stairs

Project Description
The Master Plan uses the strong spatial organization of three landscaped greens of varying characters radiating from the formal entry to establish clear zones of use that are interlinked through primary cross-connecting circulation patterns. The weaving of circulation systems—both exterior and interior—creates a coherent structure in which to develop academic, research, residential, service and recreational uses. While the campus is provided with a strong, unifying structure, each component is envisioned to have its own unique identity creating a collection of memorable places.
Strategies that develop a memorable, high-performance and economically viable campus environment include:

  • Choreography of scales, types and orientations of buildings of buildings and the spaces they shape, including landmark elements placed at strategic locations.
  • Cladding materials to create a unifying sense of color, texture, quality while addressing the demands of the climate, economy and long-term maintenance.
  • Building facades that respond to solar heat gain, daylight, natural ventilation, reduced uncontrolled air infiltration and shading opportunities as well as the use of energy efficient integrated heating and cooling approaches.
  • Appropriate structural and campus-wide energy-use systems.

In business for more than 30 years, Moore Ruble Yudell work as a spirited collaboration. The founding partners—Charles Moore, John Ruble, and Buzz Yudell—shared a passion for an original architecture that grows out of an intense dialogue with places and people, celebrates human activity, and enhances and nurtures community. With a Santa Monica office of 60 people, these values continue to guide their process, providing the core principles for a wide-ranging exploration of planning and architecture. To learn more, visit


Jennifer Kennedy

Making pictures gives me endless opportunities to see the world in a new way. I love both the process and the people I meet along the way. I consider photography a dance between me and my subject and in the end, it's the subtle, almost indescribable details that move the viewer

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