As a continuation to his “Shan-Shui City” concept, which envisions a “city of mountains and water,” Ma Yansong of MAD Architects has proposed an interpretation of China’s ancient natural philosophy in the contemporary city: the Chaoyang Park project. Situated in the world’s second largest city park and surrounded by a typical Chinese business district, the Chaoyang Park project seeks to infuse the “vigorous Shan-Shui culture” with a new urban typology that unites architecture and nature as a single entity.
In the latest video from Nowness, director Thomas Rhazi documents the complicated architectural scene in China – focusing on how the country holds onto its identity despite the “frenetic” pace of its expansion and globalization. Shaway Yeh sums up the situation nicely: “what does China really look like, what does China represent? No one knows, because it’s a place that’s still in flux, it’s constantly reshaping.” Lyndon Neri, however, points to Pritzker Prize winner Wang Shu as a possible answer, saying that he “created something quite amazing in Ningbo, it had a new way of looking at a building in a Chinese way… what he actually did was a modern interpretation of Chinese architecture.” No matter where you stand on China’s modernization, the video is a beautiful depiction of the historical meeting the modern.
In this article, originally published in Metropolis Magazine’s Point of View blog as “The Real Problem with China’s Ghost Towns” , author Peter Calthorpe explains the problems of these cities, predicts their grim future, and explores how the thoughtful planning behind the city of Chenggong could provide a more sustainable alternative.
We’ve all seen the reports on “ghost town” developments in China, showing acres of empty high-rise apartments and vacant shopping malls. These barren towns seem particularly ironic in a country planning to move 250 million people from the countryside to cities in the next 20 years. But this massive, unprecedented demand has been distorted by a number of factors unique to China. Flawed financial incentives for cities and developers, along with the poor phasing of services, amenities, and jobs create most of the problems. In addition, China’s emerging middle class is very comfortable (perhaps too comfortable) investing in real estate, so people often buy apartments in incomplete communities but don’t move in, expecting that values will rise, or that they will live there someday. The result is a string of large, empty developments that remain speculative investments rather than real homes and communities. [See-through buildings are the worry now, but the real problems may come when they are full.]
While it’s hard to get data on vacancy levels in China, there are certainly many anecdotal examples across the country. An all-too-typical example is Chenggong, the new town planned for 1.5 million just outside of Kunming in the west. This freshly minted city boasts the growing Yunnan University, currently with 170,000 students and faculty; a new government center; and an emerging light industrial area. Under construction are the city’s new high-speed rail station and two metro lines connecting the historic city center.
One of Coop Himmelb(l)au‘s latest competition winning designs is the Dawang Mountain Resort near Changsha, China, a combination of an entertainment ice world with an indoor ski slope, a water park and supporting restaurant and shopping facilities. Positioned directly on top of a historical cement mining quarry pit and lake, this proposal aims to combine “striking landscape with ambitious design” in a way that could redefine the idea and aesthetics of recreation for the south-central Chinese city.
Designed by spatial practice, their proposal for the Harbin High Speed Railway (HSR) west train station Twin Towers. is an iconic project set to include office spaces, residential apartments, retail spaces and a hyper link to a new underground infra-structural hub. With China having the world’s longest High Speed Rail (HSR) network that connects the entire country from north to south and from east to west, the new West Train Station in Harbin will become the northern China gateway connecting to China’s major cities with daily high-speed links to Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Guangzhou. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Milan-based RRC Studio‘s latest undertaking, the Xiang River Tower, will be an office and residential project in Changsha, a city under heavy development in China. Located near the Xiang river in a prime area of the city’s downtown, the tower will dominate the city’s horizon and bear a strong presence on the skyline.
Read on for the architects’ description…
Danish practice ADEPT has won an international, invited competition to master plan the 17KM2 site of Laiyan New Town and Binjian District in Hengyang, China. Their winning proposal, “Green Loops City” was lauded for developing an innovative and sustainable way to accommodate rapid urban growth while preserving Hengyang’s cultural heritage and lush surrounding landscape.
Aidi Su from ADEPT stated: “Much of Hengyang’s cultural and natural resources are still very much intact when compared to other Chinese cities facing rapid urban development. This is an incredible opportunity for us to make a difference in Chinese cities.”
Architects: Neri&Hu Design and Research Office
Location: Shanghai, China
Partners In Charge: Lyndon Neri & Rossana Hu
Associate In Charge: Cai Chun Yan
Design Team: Wang Yan, Fu Ying, Guo Peng, Peter Eland, Jonas Hultman, Markus Stoecklein, Christina Cho, Jeongyon Mimi Kim, Ella Ye Lu, Federico Saralvo, Zhao Lei, Xiao Lei, Darcy Tang
Area: 2,400 sqm
Photographs: Pedro Pegenaute
Southwest International Ethnic Culture and Art Center Winning Proposal / Tongji Architectural Design and Research Institute
Located in the core area of Kunming Chenggong New C.B.D, the main challenge for the design of the Southwest International Ethnic Culture and Art Center was to integrate the local cultures plus various functional programs into one contemporary yet harmonious form. Designed by team members Wang Wensheng, Damian Donze and Sidney Gong of the Tongji Architectural Design and Research Institute, their winning proposal takes on an abstract path to integrate the local cultures. More images and architects’ description after the break.