Designing a new
chapter for Shanghai

  • CLIENT Vanke Real Estate
  • SECTOR Property
  • PROJECT GFA 49,000sqm
  • LOCATION Shanghai

Skills at play

  • Qualitative research
  • Onsite scoping
  • Brand positioning
  • Brand naming
  • Brand design
  • Communication design
  • Campaign design
  • Signage design
  • Project management

Designed and built in 1924 by renowned architect Laszlo Hudec, Columbia Circle is one of the few untouched historical sites remaining in Shanghai today. It was originally designed as a social country club for USA expatriates to enjoy all things American — hamburgers, ice-cream, whisky sours and late night soirées. Equipped with a sports field, bowling alley, swimming pool and clubhouse, the original Columbia Country Club was a welcome respite for Americans working in a foreign city.

The site went on to survive a peppered history during and after the war. Home to Sun Ke (son of Sun Zhong Shan) from 1932, and later occupied by the Shanghai Institute of Biological Products Co. in 1951 until recent times. In 2016, it was commissioned to become a centre of innovation and creative business.

Our brand aim was to reignite the buzz of the former glory days. Under the steam of property giant Vanke, Columbia Circle will once again welcome a buzzing social community for all in Shanghai to enjoy. From entertainment and dining to sports and games, people will benefit from a diverse working environment with a super-connected social network.

Brand challenge

After delving wholeheartedly into the rich history of the site we could see great value in preserving elements of the original story for Shanghai to appreciate and cherish. However, the future of the site presented a new and exciting story to tell to Shanghai. Our challenge was to create a brand that could balance the dichotomy between a fascinating past and a progressive future.

Shanghai’s historical Columbia Country Clubhouse was the playground for American expats

Vanke's future vision for the Columbia Circle site

The human perspective

When planning and building the brand we always place human experience at the heart of our work. We focus our energy into profiling customer types and understanding their interests and needs to make a sustainable place that is fit for purpose. Our strategic positioning for the Columbia Circle brand centred around three key customer groups:

1. Creative people – Those who are curious and like to be inspired by the people and things around them
2. Cultural people – Those who take part in modern and traditional cultural activities
3. Social people – Those who enjoy like-minded people and seek experiences that adds richness to their lives

Our research showed that these people like to be connected. They like business networking, sharing knowledge and socialising at any hour of the day or night. They like uniqueness in a workplace, not just a plain and predictable office space, and enjoy being part of Shanghai’s cultural history. With connectivity at its heart the essence of the brand, “where creative chemistry happens” was used to leverage much of the marketing for this unique place.

The original fireplace has been preserved and features the original Columbia Country Club crest (CCC).

Value in a name

During our site research we observed a crest emblem carved into the stone fireplace of the old clubhouse. Bearing the letters CCC it represented the former ‘Columbia Country Club’.

The word ‘Columbia’ (derived from Columbus) has a strong association to America and the Club’s former life. We chose to retain this word in the name as a historical link to the past. Coupled with a reference to powerful social circles, we named the place ‘Columbia Circle’ — a place to connect, share and enjoy with other like-minded people.

The Chinese name 上生新所 (Shang Sheng Xin Suo) is reminiscent of the industrial past of the site, while the word “新(new) implies a new lease of life for the community.

A crafted history

Our logo design took inspiration from the original emblem of the Columbia Country Club. The simplified crest retains a single aspirational five-pointed star a shape associated with both China and US as well as representing the future vision of the new community. The emblem style mark is also associated with a club, a place to belong.

The series of striking colourful elements inject energy into the brand toolkit including the elite stripes of red, white and blue coupled with China yellow, a fun pop-culture collage imagery style, iconography and unique typography styles in English and Chinese.

The brand identity has been rolled-out across leasing collateral, leasing suite, onsite hoarding, flags, way-finding signage, invitations and digital marketing. More to come in phase 2.

David Beckham at Columbia Circle, Shanghai

Cultural story draws in the crowd

Columbia Circle has already attracted famous fashion brand launches and creative industry forums. The site is an excellent backdrop for photo shoots and welcomed David Beckham as a subject in May 2017.

The Phase 1 retail leased within two months of launch and they have attracted some of the world’s top 500 innovation companies to locate their China headquarters at Columbia Circle.

International and Chinese professionals alike have been attracted by this unique cultural story, making the brand successful of true cross-cultural creativity.

JWDK have created a modern visual language to interpret Vanke’s first urban regeneration project, which has turned out to be a huge success.

Grace Yan

Associate Director of Operations/Leasing, Vanke

Celebrating five years of Columbia Circle