Only the giant cruise ships sidled up against the riverbank offer any hint of what lies below Shanghai’s newest stretch of green along the Huangpu River in the resurgent North Bund district. The Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal Development Co. Ltd. wanted its 30,000-sq-meter passenger terminal, which had its soft opening last year, to disappear below grade, except for an iconic, 4,000-sq-m observatory on stilts that resembles either a bubble, spaceship or a giant bug. The public owner, part of the Shanghai port authority, wanted the world’s first underground cruise terminal to be topped by a park.
“It’s not your ordinary terminal,” says Frank Repas, the New York City-based design architect. Typically, the ship is the waiting area for passengers, he adds. But because the international passengers have to go through customs, the programming resembles an international airport terminal, with spaces for immigration processing and baggage claim.