Location and vision shaped RVJA’s role in the development and evolution of the large Laohutan Leisure district, a project totaling 1.6 square kilometers, including almost five linear kilometers of coastline. The city of Dalian, China is an important seaport surrounded by beautiful natural beaches and has grown into a popular leisure destination in the fifteen years that RVJA has been working in the region.
RVJA was originally contacted to renovate the small existing ocean park, located on a cove within a larger bay. Inspired by the geography of the larger bay, RVJA saw the possibilities for a much larger and more impressive leisure complex. The design challenge was guiding the client through an undertaking much broader than their original scope, and also navigating the government approval process required to develop the property. Based on the strength of RVJA’s initial proposal and exceptional master plan, both the government and the client saw the value of the larger vision, and since 1999 RVJA has been working to develop, innovate, expand, and renovate Laohutan into the premier leisure district in the region. This seafront property features three main districts, including an ocean park; Sichao, a hot springs resort; and Laohutan, a commercial street along a quaint fisherman’s wharf.
Throughout the evolution of this site, the maritime tradition of the region has influenced the design style. Taking cues from Dalian’s historic fishing industry, RVJA interpreted a western-inspired design, a commercial area with a working wharf that conjures the ambiance of San Francisco. The marina style inner harbor contributes a distinctive character to the surrounding retail area. Seafood restaurants, sightseeing decks, and a lighthouse, flanked by office and high-rise residential units, provide residents and visitors a special atmosphere in which to enjoy this harbor walk year-round. What might have stayed a modest ocean park has grown into a booming leisure district.
Laohutan Leisure District has proven to be a very successful model that demonstrates the viability of larger commercial, hospitality, and entertainment driven districts, a catalyst of growth attracting subsequent investors and further development of the area. RVJA is still developing concepts outlined in its initial master plan, and has proven critical in both an advisory and design capacity for this location. In 2008, Dalian was named one of the top three tourist cities in China, with Laohutan one of the anchors attracting visitors to the region.