Oriental Plaza - a massive, integrated complex that combines traditional Chinese and modern architectural elements - makes a striking new landmark in central Beijing. Located within walking distance of the Imperial Palace and Tiananmen Square, the complex occupies 100,000 sq m at the corner of East Chang An Avenue and Wangfujing, Beijing's busiest shopping street. In fact, the plaza seems to epitomise the capital's transformation. Its impressive glass facades immediately catch the eye, and if the interior seems less impressive it is because work is still in progress. The exterior was completed in 1999, in time for a People's Liberation Army parade near the site to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. The architectural design of the complex suggests a city within a city. The exterior is rectangular and the interior circular, and there are buildings within buildings. The building comprises eight towers of grade-A offices, four service apartment towers, and a 600-room luxury hotel, to be managed by Hyatt International, in addition to a shopping mall in five themes. Beijing Oriental Plaza Company chairman, Kam Hing-lam, said one-third of the 300,000 sq m of office space had been leased. Three office blocks were completed two months ago, while three blocks built last year were 80 per cent leased, he said. Two more office blocks are due for completion by the end of the year. Mr Kam expects more take-up as additional space comes on stream in phases. He said the 100,000 sq m retail arcade, The Malls at Oriental Plaza, was 'virtually full', while 5 to 6 per cent of the space has been reserved for future needs. Oriental Plaza has a total floor area of 800,000 sq m. The project attracted much interest from its inception, with Cheung Kong (Holdings), Hutchison Whampoa and Orient Overseas International as the joint venture partners. Cheung Kong and Hutchison are controlled by Li Ka-shing, while Orient Overseas is controlled by the family of SAR Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. The project caught the attention of overseas investors who were concerned when the flagship outlet of Beijing McDonald's was demolished to make way for the complex. Later, the project hit a snag over height restrictions. Mr Kam said the design takes into account the capital's traditional architecture while incorporating contemporary elements. For example, the towers are built around a quadrangular courtyard, enclosed by a building on each side. Such designs are known as shiheyuan. Windows too, incorporate traditional Chinese elements, as do the long corridors in the malls. Many gates intersect the corridors as in an ancient Chinese palace. The architecture aside, creative use has been made of the vast area covered by the building. Mr Kam, who is also Cheung Kong's deputy managing director, said the 100,000 sq m shopping mall covers only two floors, unlike the multi-storey arcades found elsewhere. There is a pedestrian walkway on each level of The Malls - Oriental Avenue is on the ground floor and Plaza Avenue is at basement level, Mr Kam said. Five smaller 'streets', each connecting to East Chang An Avenue, are at right angles to the main avenue. The retail outlets on each street feature different themes, ranging from fashion and children's goods to high-technology. The streets and shops are laid out in a way that would attract buyers to different kinds of goods. 'A shopper looking for a suitcase could end up also buying a shirt and other items,' he said. 'In contrast, conventional multi-storey malls are suitable for buyers who choose to go to a particular floor to buy a specific item.' The 'street-like' malls in Oriental Plaza suit general shopping patterns, and only large sites can afford such a design, Mr Kam said. The bigger floor plates in The Towers - each floor is 3,000 sq m - should prove especially attractive to large companies. At present, one-third of the office tenants occupy at least one floor. The Expo Gallery on a large platform above the mall provides a variety of facili ties and amenities to office tenants, including banks, clinics, furniture shops and exhibition space, he said.