Shanghai planners are considering yet another urban splendor aimed at Chinese socializing. Cinepanorama — a semi-outdoor complex of a cinema-theater, restaurant and shopping — is designed by renowned architect Jean Pierre Heim, writes Jenny Hammond.

Every day the Shanghai skyline changes, new construction sprouts from the ruins of old buildings. The city is always pushing boundaries, with revolutionary architecture and skyscrapers that set and break world records.

Now Shanghai is set to go one step further with a proposal for Cinepanorama, said by the designer, Jean Pierre Heim, to be the world's largest outdoor multimedia center.

The concept envisions an open-air outdoor complex of three overlapping zones, including a shopping area, a 250-seat restaurant and an open-air single-screen cinema for 850 to 3,000 people. The complex will have numerous side rooms where people can socialize and watch TV and movies.

Heim, a world-renowned architect and designer, is the man behind the vision.

He says, "The proposal suggests a new intersection between public space, cultural programs, technology and architecture to create a lively and vibrant landmark within the urban landscape as an icon of contemporary culture."

Heim says several enterprises are bidding to host the center that will be built atop an existing structure. So the site will be determined by the city's selection of bidder. It should be completed before tourists arrive for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he told Shanghai Daily.

Heim is in talks to produce Cinepanorama, his second project in China after his exclusive private club in Beijing, which is under construction.

His most recognizable works include the Frankfurt Opera House, Offenbach, the Dresden Opera house and Luxor Palace Theater. He submitted a proposal for Ground Zero in New York, site of the former World Trade Center. Though it was not accepted in total, some of his ideas are under consideration for part of what will be built there.

He first came to China through sales of his book, "Jean Pierre Heim," about his work. It was printed in China and drew considerable attention from Shanghai developers.

Heim has offices in New York, Paris and Athens. He says he enjoys Shanghai's diversity and eclecticism.

"Shanghai architecture is very chaotic. There is no exact style with the high rise buildings neighbored by neo-classic and then art deco and modern," he says.

"I think my design will complement this mixture, taking into consideration the traditional but also the European and American cultures here, bringing new elements to architecture."

His designs offer reference to the past with symmetry and strong materials like stone and contrasting with contemporary materials like glass, which will be used widely in the Cinepanorama.

"Built into the floor plan of the cinema are elements taken from the Imperial City - comparing the two, they are very similar. This gives my design, which is obviously very modern, influences of Chinese culture."

In the last two years many Shanghai landmarks have been demolished, places such as the clothes market or an antiques market making way for contemporary buildings.

"Architecture is a piece of urban planning design. A building is part of the landscape, so the structure should respect its surroundings and the culture of the place where it will be built," says Heim. "I design with respect of nature and environment, according to clients' demands and programs."

Private rooms in Shanghai are very popular for Chinese people to socialize in small groups. When a film comes out or there is a big event on TV, a lot of people will watch it at home on their own or in a small group. However, this is a very Chinese concept.

"The idea for the Cinepanorama is a social one as it will bring the community together more, giving people the option of private rooms or spaces that can hold a large capacity of people, accommodating both Chinese and Western tastes."

The concept is also modern in its approach, looking at people's needs today and making security a priority.

"Security is now a major issue in the world and people need to feel safe. The complex will have doors similar to those in airports where people must pass. This way everyone is free to enjoy themselves without any worries."

Solar panels will power the complex, making it self-sustaining and bio-climatic. Taking into consideration the Shanghai climate, the Cinepanorama can be used in both the summer and winter even though it is semi-outdoors, covered by a tent structure. With a micro-climate, it supplies hot air when it is cold and cool air in the heat.

New technology with the screen and sound system also assure that sound pollution will not be an issue. "The sound comes from above rather than the sides so we can limit it to a perimeter, which is important in such a close city as this."

Shanghai is one of the world's new and emerging cities, similar to Dubai, says Heim. "Like Dubai, it has the largest concentration of construction cranes I have ever seen, but I think by 2010, the deadline for the World Expo, the city will have recovered to become once again a truly international city as it was in the 1930s."

With the luxury business one of China's fastest-growing industries, Heim says, "I compare Shanghai to New York of 20 years ago, where people were setting up luxury companies. China is now the place where everyone wants to be and so it is developing so fast.

"China is also of great interest to me because of its rapidly growing luxury goods market. Stores are opening up throughout the major cities, especially Shanghai, as they are a big trend now. This is a specialty of mine as I have designed over 200, including the Christian Lacroix boutique in Paris."

However, Heim explains his major field is luxury resorts.

"I think south China will be the next step for these kinds of resorts, including the blueprint of the Shanghai Cinepanorama complex as tropical climates are ideal for it, with it being predominately outdoors."