James Corner Field Operations to design Qianhai


We’ve heard a lot about James Corner Field Operations particularly due to the High Line in New York.  But, now the firm is taking their talent across the world to China where they have just won the prestigious Urban Design Competition to design a new major city, .  The firm placed ahead OMA/Rem Koolhaas, BLAU Architecture and Urbanism, Bjarke Ingles Group, and SWA among dozens of others for the win.

Sponsored by the Planning Land and Resources Commission of Shenzhen, the panel included international experts in the fields of architecture, planning, landscape and urban design.  The panel envisioned this new city, Qianhai, to function as a major new urban center and wanted the design to link Hong Kong to Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

For the allotted 4,500 acres, JCFO has designed a “Water City” for 1.5 million people which centers around the city’s most important resource – water.  Five “Water Fingers” divide the massive site into manageable sub-districts.  The fingers extend from the existing rivers and channels and function as both innovative hydrological infrastructures and new public parkland. They process and remediate stormwater, while expanding the amount of development frontage onto public open spaces that structure and organize the larger city.

Within each of the sub-districts, the fabric is designed in the conventional scale of a typical Shenzhen block and inter-connected with urban neighborhoods.  In this hyper-dense design, the city will retain an ecologically sensitivity while also becoming an iconic waterfront.

We will be sure to keep you updated on future progress. As seen on Bustler.

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "James Corner Field Operations to design Qianhai" 01 Jul 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=66650>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Why design a top down plan for 1,5 million people? Didn’t we learn from history this doesn’t work and will never work? A city holds so many layers, so many parameters which are impossible to design in this way. Please China, wake up

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      I completely agree. I believe establishing an overall plan for infrastructure and expansion is wise, but the best cities in the world are the ones that have grown organically, and have the patina and scarring of their accumulated experiences, eras, ebbs and flows.

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    I completely disagree, it just needs to be done well and we can’t expect it to work over night.. I think New York for instance is petty nice..

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    Its a ‘new city’ in the Chinese planning context. It is actually a new CBD in Shenzhen a city that already has between 8-14 million people(depend on which stat you use). Qianhai will be the 2nd CBD for services and financials.

    This design is only part of the overall city plan for 2020 Shenzhen and are rarely built as shown in this model. This is basic city planning with an architecture model to give the scale of height and density. The market will take over and parameters that are set is basically height, setback, green ratio, land use, the rest is up to the developer whether it is the government(civic use) or commercial. Most of the land being currently used for shipping and industry. Layers will develop over time like all cities, are nothing without people who change, appropriate and use spaces this will occur over time but a guiding plan is needed. Think Shenzhen was a fishing village in the 1980′s now its a thriving metropolis of 8-14 million people.


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      I agree with you. This is not actually a construction scheme but sort of a spatial regulation. No building will be made as the model shows. This urban design cannot even determine parcels actually. It is just a layout of infrastructures, green spaces and also defines place character. I also believe the model missed other key information like phasing.

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    Hey i was wondering if anyone knew where I could see a copy of their competition boards ? or some information about their concept for this new city ?

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    After having visited a ‘design institute’ last week in Shanghai, I can tell you not only are there cities like this, but there are hundreds more that are NOT being designed by James Corner, Rem, Bjarke, etc. (ie not on Archdaily)

    One Institute was supposedly using 400 people spread across ten studios to design 200 cities of 1 million people or more a year. Do that math… that’s 40 people designing 1 large city every two weeks…

    It may not be ‘ideal’ by Western standards (depending on what your vision of cities is), but here in China it’s just reality

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