Realized in collaboration with the Shanghai-based developer Octave, Sangha is a 46-acre community that offers a new model for developing cities in China and beyond. Stay tuned for more information on the project, including it’s many components. 

Sangha’s mission is to help people learn about how to live well in a rapidly changing country, while simultaneously proposing alternatives to governments and developers for how to plan, build, and bring to market urban growth. Octave and Tsao & McKown dedicated years of interdisciplinary research and significant investment to create this viable model, which the team hopes will be adopted by other developers who seek to foster better living in the 21st century.

The creation of Sangha has involved the collaboration of the Chinese government as well as non-profit and for-profit entities in China, the United States and Singapore.

Sangha is located on Yangcheng Lake on the periphery of Suzhou, China, a UNESCO world heritage site about an hour’s drive west of Shanghai. Components include: single-family residences, apartments, two hotels, a medical clinic, an East/West wellness center, a food hall, a conference/learning center, childhood programs, and galleries. These components comprise the pedestrian oriented “live-work-learn” community.

Sangha is master planned to accommodate the needs of permanent residents, guests, and visitors from surrounding communities of differing ages and socio-economic backgrounds. It is conceived as a unit inserted into the urban fabric that connects the merging cities of Shanghai and Suzhou.

Sangha is unique as a mission-driven commercial development offering learning programs for all ages as well as a holistic range of Eastern and Western medical services and wellness treatments.

Sangha is evidence of what can be accomplished when an architect is given a significant role from the outset of a project’s inception in determining the services and programs (“software”) to be accommodated, as well as leading the design of the environments: architecture, interiors, and landscape (“hardware”).

Sangha’s design mantra was “design to deflect attention away from design–and back to nature.” Human-scaled buildings reduce the boundaries between inside and outside. Streets and pathways are scaled to a pedestrian’s stride, accentuated with benches and niches where people can pause and take in a view. The buildings are designed to support the many programs that occur within this mixed-use site.

Repetition of materials and color is leavened by ingenious variation. Buildings are sited to optimize the harvesting of natural light, vistas and cool breezes. Open airy rooms are articulated by color and honestly expressed, richly textured materials.

Sangha’s designers specified local natural materials as much as possible and creatively repurposed reclaimed building elements. They commissioned local artisans and laborers, valuing the presence of the human touch in making and benefiting from passed-down skills and craft traditions.

Tsao & McKown conceived the Master Plan and design guidelines, collaborating with fellow firms on architecture and interiors.

Architectural Design

Tsao & McKown: At One Hotel; Medical Clinic; East/West Wellness Center; Select Residences.
Yung Ho Chang (Atelier FCJZ), Jianzhu: Select Residences
Neri & Hu Design and Research Office, Shanghai: The Sanctuary; Select Residences; Apartments; Town Hall and Public Plaza

Interior Architectural Design          

Tsao & McKown: At One Hotel; Fellow Traveler Hotel; Medical Clinic; East/West Wellness Center; Spa; Apartments; Select Residences
Baker Design Group, Stephen Baker, Boston: Childhood Learning Center; Lecture Hall
Margaret Sullivan Studio: Life Learning Center
Eland Architects, Shanghai and Copenhagen: Organic Market and Food Hall
Gensler, Shanghai: Town Hall


Design Land Collaborative, Shanghai
CLIENT: Octave
AREA: 609600 m2