Vertical lilong

First prize – small-scale interventions

Vertical Lilong

By: Luis Fco. Romero Martinez & Sandra Gomez Alba​


​A Shikumen Lilong is a laneway in Shanghai (also call Longtang or just Lilong) and by extension, a community arranged around a laneway or several interconnected laneways. The Lilong can either refer to the lane that the house faces onto or a group of houses connected by the lane.

Lilongs residencies were prevalent during the end of the 19th century until the 1930´s, combining the traits of southern Chinese dwellings and western row houses; are the most representative of Shanghai residential architecture.


During the concessional era, the Lilongs spread every corner of Shanghai foreigner concession. Foreign, Chinese, people from all social state, everyone living in Shanghai foreign concession could find their homes in these narrow lanes and tiny courtyard.

By 1950's the development of Lilongs in Shanghai has been stopped. The communist party came into power and Shanghai was closed to the world. As a symbol of capitalism Shikumen architecture was not encourage to be built, instead, a lot of post war 6-storey apartments were built in Shanghai foreign concession. 

Years of wind and rain have aged a large number of the brick-timber structured and household-dense Shikumen architectures. They are gradually disappearing from our sight with the city's planning and transformation.


On a sunny day, every household dries their laundry in the air, both convenient and energy-saving.

Cobblers, moving vendors and other business often set up a stall at Longtang entrance where everyone must pass-by. There are also shops inside the Lilong even in some case can find hotels.

Flowers and plants show the leisure life of the neighborhood.


Tengfeng Li is the Shikumen Lilong chosen due to it is one of the oldest (before 1876) and closest of the cultural heritage called The Bund. As others, this Shikumen Lilong are under risk of demolition but especially in that case, for its proximity to one of the most commercial areas.


For all these reasons is necessary a 'Plan B' to preserved the wonderful and unique idiosyncrasy of Shanghainese's style of living. 

It is possible to save the existing houses increasing the number of these in the chosen area (The proposal show the increment of 147 units) growing the number of storey (following a growth pattern based on the sunlight, natural ventilation and privacy for better adaptation to climate of the environment and reduce energy consumption). Is is a determinant factor the fact that the Lilong essence has to be preserved vertically: saving the community spaces where the daily chores take place, where neighbor gather to cook, play, talk... share their life.

Lilong housing, an urban legacy, has been compromised by the mass urban redevelopment of the city that rendered Shanghai vulnerable to globalization at an unprecedented scale over the past 20 years.

Two out of three Lilongs in Shanghai, are being demolished. Vertical Lilong could become a 'Plan B' to stop it which Shanghai can resist the escape of cultural globalization.​

The Designers: ​Luis Fco. Romero Martinez & Sandra Gomez Alba​

Luis Fco. Romero Martinez & Sandra Gomez Alba​Sandra Gomez and Luis Romero are architects that have worked for architectural offices around the world, period in which they have understood the need to subject their work to a deep research of the different local aspects such as social, bioclimatic and economic realities. 

Both founded Alma-studio, working nationally and internationally, in which currently they have different lines of work in response to different scales, trying to get rid of the accessory and returning to the essentiality of local customs, looking for a balance between technology and traditional constructive solutions.​

Jury's comments

​Stefan Winter:

The entry demonstrates the potential of top-on-roof structures to preserve existing, even sometimes historical structures. It is also a political statement to support small but sensitive developments instead of big, heritage destroying projects. The project may also be realised in a combination of professional structures mixed with diy efforts of the nowadays users.

Mike Kane:

In responding to a particularly current cultural context, this idea is equally relevant to many cities. It illustrates a strong alternative to the forces of anonymous development reducing cities to places of consumption. Its strength lies in its simplicity and understanding of the value of real community is and how to enhance this diversity. The lightweight timber construction inserted and added simply grows from the existing fabric of old urban Shanghai. 

Michael Green:

As skylines creep ever taller and become increasingly bleak with repetitive towers, Vertical Lilong challenges us to rethink the meaning of heritage, culture, social connectivity and adaptive resuse. The project stitches together the traditonal fabric with infill density that could only be realized effectively in wood.  The project is a gorgeous example of wood’s flexibliity to meet modern and history needs.

City Above the City architecture competition

Plan B : City Above the City architecture competition 

Metsä Wood challenged architects and students around the world to push the boundaries of modern wood building design in the urban environment. Entrants from 40 countries created their Plan B to urbanisation using wood (Kerto® LVL – laminated veneer lumber) as the main material. The task was to design a wooden extension to an existing urban building. The entries were designed to 69 cities worldwide.

The winners


Tammelan Kruunu by Lisa Voigtländer (Germany) and SungBok Song (Korea)



Lightweight Living by Joshua Duncan & Chaz Flint​


Plug-In by Jari Lonka, Francesco Allaix & Lilja Mustila


Aboveall by Giuseppe De Marinis Gallo​ & ​​Gianluca Gnisci​​​


The Green Intervention by Minjae Kim &​​ Kwang Ja Oh​


Dear Landlord by Nile Greenberg​


Vertical Lilong by Luis Fco. Romero Martinez & Sandra Gomez Alba​


Colliding Lines and Lives by Sinan Gunay & Nurhayat Oz​​


Dachkiez,Village On The Roof​ by Sigurd Larsen, Simon Jendreizig, Vanessa Panagiotopoulou, Marlene Kjeldsen, Guillermo Fernandez Villar & Pedro Campos Altozano​

Explore the designs