Endless Discoveries – Where Natural Wonders Never Cease: Haikou International Duty-Free City

Announcement | March 16, 2023

Project Name: Haikou International Duty-Free City

Site Location: Haikou, China

Client: China Duty Free Group

Project Size: 52,200sqm above ground, 137,200sqm underground

Services: Interior Design 

Project Start Date: September 2019

Construction Completion Date: October 2022

Photography: Yihuai Hu

Haikou International Duty-Free City, for which CRTKL is responsible for the commercial interior design, is located in the sub-center of the west coast of Haikou City, adjacent to the New Seaport, an important transportation hub. The project was officially opened on October 28th, 2022, and the number of visitors on the opening day exceeded 44,000, with sales exceeding RMB 60 million. With a single building area of 280,000 square meters, Haikou International Duty-Free City has more than 800 brands stationed there, making it the largest single duty-free store in the world at present.

Design Vision:

The new CITS Haikou Mall interior concept of “Endless Discoveries” takes its inspiration from the natural beauty and sense of excitement and discovery that can be found in Haikou. The project is divided into three main districts that express the natural and cultural characteristics of Haikou and the larger island of Hainan, creating a series of unexpected discoveries for guests throughout the project.

Grand Shore:

Acting as the main arrival point for cruise ship passengers and tourists alike, The Grand Shore provides a welcome greeting with an upscale hospitality inspired grand hall. The design is inspired by the unique rock formations on Hainan’s beaches, where water carves through the large rocks and forms natural sculptural gateways. An impressive high volumed central atrium is anchored by a series of multi-level flagship luxury tenants that appear to have been carved out of rock by the flow of water from the ocean. These bold stone forms become the home to our collection of luxury flagship retailers as they flow gracefully thought the Grand Shore to create an iconic welcoming image.

Points of light on the ceiling create a starry sky softly guiding the flow of people throughout the space and creating focal point moments. The starry points of light are designed using a customized module to create an ethereal visual experience while also providing ease of installation.

The use of materials and details express the ideas of a resort hotel lobby, exquisite and elegant, bringing visitors a “luxury resort hotel-style” experience.

Celebration of Dance

Sculptural flowing forms inspired by the movement of local traditional dance gracefully wrap the open duty-free retail that anchors this district. These feature elements create a multi-level focal point in the main courts while also highlighting the duty-free offering. A modern design language of pattern and form are used to abstractly express the ideas of motion and flow while a warm palette with accent of natural materials create a welcoming shopping experience. This reference to local culture and style creates a vivid and unique visual of swirling skirts that anchor the space. Points of light at different sizes spiral around the atrium in all directions, adding to the rhythm of dance.

The typical mall design expresses a modern design language to also celebrate the beauty of dance utilizing the forms of flowing curves to simulate a sense of movement. 

This design language also extends to the lounge and restrooms. Flowing ceiling patterns are offset with accents of champagne-colored metal and points of light of representing stars floating vertically up the wall. The elevator lobby expresses an elegant simplicity of champagne-colored metallic accents and soft curving forms that tie back to the forms found throughout the project.

Paradise Garden-Connection Corridor

Adjacent to the Grand Shore is the connection corridor to the Paradise Garden. The design team felt that this area needed to relate to the design language of the overall project, but also needed to introduce the bold story of the Paradise Garden in a unique way, bringing a sense of a grand entry leading visitors to a dream-like garden space.

The sky escalator spanning three levels is half wrapped in a fantastical design that creates a transition from one part of the project into the magic world of the Paradise Garden. Thematic lighting inside provides visitors with a unique experience similar to Alice arriving into Wonderland.

Paradise Garden

The design language is inspired by nature but beyond nature, beyond imagination, to create a dreamscape garden of magical trees and flowing water. A contemporary fantasy based design language is used to interpret this found paradise Unlike the warmth of the Celebration of Dance and the Grand Shore, the Paradise Garden leans toward cooler tones With punches of bright accents which differentiates it from the rest of the projects and allows visitors to feel like they have entered a new world.

The AURA Sky Secret Forest themed atrium, designed by WETA, unfolds as an experience of fantasy and nature intertwined. A series of terracing balconies are formed by the canopies of large abstract trees provide platforms for guests to sit and enjoy a good meal while watching programed events and entertainment.

The elevator hall is simple but expressive with walls shaped like curtains being pulled back to show a hidden world beyond. While the continuity of similar materials and colors unifies it with the rest of the project.  

The portal to the world of the Sky Secret Forest is adjacent to a huge 27 meters high and 12 meters wide digital screen. The adjacent elevator lobby is accented with walls of a similar language wrapped in undulating and waving champagne-colored metal panels, transitioning into a large digital screen that wraps around the central core.

For the restrooms the design team blurred the lines between indoors and outdoors, creating a garden that feels like being outside. Natural textures of stone and wood grain gives a rainforest undertone. The center island sink contains a staggered planter with a center piece of lush greenery. A frosted glass wall of diffused backlit plants bring soft light into the space, blurring the boundary between inside and outside, and transforming the indoor washroom into a lush rainforest.

The story of flowing water in the rainforest descends to the underground levels, with rivers floating overhead creating movement that pulls people through the space. Reflective hammered metal ceilings accented with layers of water-like lights are expressed in geometric forms to create a sense of volume in a low ceilinged space.

The story of flowing water in the rainforest descends to the underground levels, with rivers floating overhead creating movement that pulls people through the space. Reflective hammered metal ceilings accented with layers of water-like lights are expressed in geometric forms to create a sense of volume in a low ceilinged space.

Design Team

Kevin Horn


As a co-director of the Los Angeles Environments Studio, Kevin focuses on commercial interiors and specializes in the design of retail, entertainment, and mixed-use projects types, Kevin’s expertise in the conceptualization and design of  experience driven interior environments, environmental graphics and identity systems have led to the completion of many award-winning projects both domestically and internationally.

Yangyang Xu

Senior Designer

With the work experience in planning, brand strategy, and creative enhancement on commercial retails, upscale shopping centers and corporate office projects, Yangyang has gained strong capability of analyzing, idea generation and implementation of functional design solutions.

Design Team: Vinson Wu, Ziwei.wang, Songting Xie, Fenny Feng, Jessica Xu