Skip to content

Shanghai's Underwater Quarry Hotel

Video hosted by Fred Mills.

SHANGHAI is home to some of the tallest buildings on Earth. From the Oriental Pearl to the mega-tall Shanghai Tower, the city is renowned for taking architecture to extreme heights.

But just 30 kilometres from the skyline, a truly ground-breaking project is nearing completion.

Extending 90 metres down into an abandoned quarry the 18 storey InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland is a structure like no other.

Located in the Sheshan Mountain Range, the hotel was conceived by Atkins for the Shimao Group as a unique destination to rival the extravagant resorts of Singapore and Dubai.

Above: The hotel was designed to rival other extravagant resorts across Asia (image courtesy of the InterContinental Hotel Group).

The 18 storey structure extends 16 storeys into the disused quarry, hugging the cliff walls and merging with the landscape.

While the hotel’s two uppermost floors peer above the top of the pit, its two lowest levels are submerged into a 10-metre deep aquarium - creating a unique experience for guests.

When selecting a site for the resort, developers sought to minimise its impact on the surrounding environment. The abandoned quarry offered unique topography and the chance to construct a sizeable hotel without scarring the landscape.

Above: The hotel's location allows it to blend seamlessly with its surrounds (image courtesy of the InterContinental Hotel Group).

The determination to limit the resort’s impact continued into the scheme design of the hotel building itself. The structure features a full-height glass atrium conceived as a waterfall and green roof that helps it to blend with the landscape above.

The hotel’s positioning in the cliff walls helps it to employ the principles of earth sheltering - drawing on the mass surrounding rock to help regulate its internal temperature.

In addition, the resort is partially powered by renewable technologies including geothermal energy and photovoltaics.

The scheme’s unique design presented extreme construction complexities. From its initial conception back in 2006, more than 5,000 architects, engineers, designers and construction workers have collaborated to make the resort a reality.


Though there were numerous challenges, the “fight against gravity” - as the project’s chief engineer described it - was by far the most daunting.

Above: The project came with logistic and engineering challenges not faced on regular building sites (image courtesy of JADE + QA).

To move materials and equipment down into the quarry, the project team had to overcome logistical headaches not encountered on more conventional construction sites.

One particular challenge was with transporting concrete from the surface down to where it was needed within the quarry.

By altering the ratio of materials used in the concrete mix, and by adding dampers to slow its descent, concrete was able to be pumped over a distance of 77 metres without separating into its constituent parts.

Above: More than 5,000 people worked over a decade to make the resort a reality (image courtesy of JADE + QA).

Over the course of a decade of construction work, experts developed a range of technological solutions to overcome the scheme’s unique challenges and filed some 39 patents to protect them.

Once completed, each of the resort’s 337 luxury rooms - aside from those underwater - will offer panoramic views of the purpose-built waterfalls flowing down the cliffs.

Above: The hotel will offer panoramic views of the quarry upon completion (image courtesy of InterContinental Hotel Group and Atkins).

Alongside the usual five star amenities, guests will also be able to try their hand at rock climbing and bungee jumping, courtesy of the hotel’s positioning.

With its unique form, this resort looks set to join the growing list of extraordinary projects conceived and constructed across China - undoubtedly luring travellers from around the world.

Images courtesy of Atkins, Google Earth, the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), Xinhua and JADE + QA.

We welcome you sharing our content to inspire others, but please be nice and play by our rules.


Email Format

Next up