ben wood studio xiantiandi 01/2014

Ben Wood Studio: Reimaging Shanghai from an American Perspective


“What distinguishes our work is the way we try, test and tirelessly network, and our dedication to a value system which is concerned with the tactile sensual qualities of the environment, versus more formal, or academic, or intellectual characteristics.”

Ben Wood



Historic neighborhoods of Shanghai are falling to the wrecking ball at an alarming rate as vast tracks of real estate are assigned to developers who are putting up mixed-use high rises to accommodate the exodus from rural areas to the city. This has been the fate of the Shikumen, literally “Stone Gate” houses; densely built brick and timber housing arranged along narrow alleys with characteristic arched stone gates, and often with one family to a room, and no heat or running water. The high value of Shanghai real estate and the desperate need for housing makes it uneconomical to maintain them in their current state.


Xiantiandi is a two city block area of Shikumen renovated by American Architect Benjamin Wood. He brilliantly understood that maintaining and renovating the relatively low rise Shikumen can add value and charm to a city of steel and glass.  He has brought new uses of restaurants, retail and office to these buildings, creatively carving new pedestrian alleys and reassembling architectural fragments in new and interesting ways.


Ben Wood honed his design chops working with Benjamin Thompson, a masterful architect who famously pioneered the revitalization of historic city centers, by bringing retail and dining to downtown neighborhoods that were devoid of street life in the evenings. The iconic renovation of Quincy Market set the stage for the revitalization of downtown Boston in the late 60’s when American cities were being abandoned by residents for the surrounding suburbs.


Flavin Architects is proud to have partnered with Ben Wood Studio in the design of a modern home alongside a restored wetland and blueberry farm in Lexington, MA.



By Colin Flavin AIA, January, 2014