Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic


People slide down the Skyslide in Los Angeles, California. AFP/Getty Images.

We shouldn’t abandon the cities we have for some amenities in the clouds

Raffles City Chonqing, an eight-skyscraper project designed by architect Moshe Safdie and under construction at the meeting of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers, would be just another megaproject in another Chinese megacity were it not for one thing: a ninth skyscraper that’s more like a “sidescraper.”

The roughly 980-foot-long tube, pleated like a lampshade and transparent like a greenhouse, houses a hotel lobby, restaurants, and a public viewing deck, and lies on its side across four of the lesser skyscrapers.

What Safdie began in Singapore with Marina Bay Sands, where three towers are capped by a long, suspended infinity pool, he amplifies in Chonqing. And an architectural conversation that was once explicitly linked to luxury one-upmanship—a pool in the sky—has now taken on a gloss of public-mindedness.

“In these dense cities like Chongqing there’s no room for big public parks [on the ground], so we have to lift them into the sky,” Safdie told the Guardian. Raffles City also includes a “landscaped platform” at a mere six stories, connected to its transit- and retail-rich podium…

Sky this, sky that. The only word more popular in urban branding right now is “line” (as in “High Line”), and there’s already a Skyline Drive. Why the sky? What is the benefit to putting parks, play equipment, cafes, trails, forests up high?