BIG, Hijjas, and Ramboll were selected as winners of Penang State Government’s international competition to design a master plan for Penang South Islands in Malaysia. The proposal entitled BiodiverCity, fits into the island's 2030 vision, and generates 4.6km of public beaches, 600 acres of parks and a 25km waterfront. An Urban Mosaic of three diverse islands, the project establishes new urban design guidelines, mixing programs, addressing pedestrian and mobility networks, building sustainably, and harvesting resources.
Supporting the Penang2030 vision, whose primary focus is centered on livability, socially and economically inclusive development, and environmental sustainability, the master plan proposes “a global destination where cultural, ecological and economic growth is secured and where people and nature co-exist in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet”.
Located at the southern shore of Penang Island, the three islands of BiodiverCity hold mixed-use districts of 15,000 to 18,000 residents across 50 to 500 acres, and a continuous 50 to 100m buffer around each district. Creating connections and supporting edge ecologies in reserves, parks, corridors, and urban plazas, the master plan introduces “water, air, and land-based autonomous public transportation network, aiming for a car-free environment where streets serve as a safe and welcoming thoroughfare for bikers and pedestrian”. In fact, districts are connected below platforms, maximizing pedestrian networks on land.
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BiodiverCity will have an integrated system of localized water resources, renewable energy and waste management, tied altogether in a human-made ecosystem. Rather than design a city for cars, we designed BiodiverCity for waterways, rail and different kinds of personal mobility, forming a multi-modal environment of movement. The resultant urban landscape will be a celebration of Penang's position as a truly global crossroads of the world - economically, ecologically and socially. -- Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.
BiodiverCity’s first island, or The Channels, encompasses a 500-acre digital park including spaces for research, development, and local business opportunities. Moreover, it will house future “conferences, education centers, and a family-oriented park where locals and guests can explore the world of technology, robotics, and virtual reality”. Its construction process is divided into 3 complementary phases.
- Phase 1: Active Destinations include a wave pool and technology park
- Phase 2: Civic Heart establishes governance and research institutions in the area
- Phase 3: Cultural Coast builds upon the heritage and vibrant creative energy of Penang’s George Town to create a regional and international draw.
At the south-end of Penang Island, BiodiverCity’s ecologically diverse landscape promotes co-existence with natural elements while giving ground for communal experiences rooted within Malaysian heritage. A network of biologically rich islands is scaled and programmed to accommodate diversity in social experiences for Penangites and newly established habitats for native plant and animal species. -- Daniel Sundlin, Partner, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.
The second and central island, The Mangroves is dedicated to businesses. Composed around urban wetlands, this zone creates a suitable environment for Mangrove forests, “an important natural infrastructure that doubles as effective powerhouses for sequestering more than four times as much carbon as a typical forest”.
The Bamboo Beacon, at the heart of the island hosts meetings, conferences, and major events, while other civic amenities are distributed throughout the city. The buildings, constructed with low-carbon materials such as bamboo and Malaysian timber in combination with green concrete, are also designed to be sustainable. They also incorporate green roofs, facades, public, and private open spaces.
The Penang South Island vision includes an adaptive infrastructure management platform to harness the site’s renewable resources provided by the sun, wind, rain and ocean. The platform will be ‘plug-and-play’ and include governance to incentivize the use of emerging green technologies as part of an evolving resource management solution. --Shonn Mills, Global Director, Ramboll.
Finally, the Laguna, BiodiverCity’s westernmost island, organized around a central marina, encompasses eight smaller islands. Forming a miniature archipelago, this oasis holds floating, stilted and terraced housing takes advantage of the natural setting of Tanjung Gertak Sanggul.
In addition, a network of “ecological corridors connects forest reserves to coastal beaches while supporting habitats and communities across the islands”. In fact, animals are given safe passage through the continuous canopy and waterways, and within natural habitats, people can safely access elevated boardwalks.
- Name: Biodivercity Penang
- Program: Commercial
- Status: In Progress
- Size in m2: 4500 acres
- Project type: Competition
- Client: Penang State Government, Malaysia
- Collaborators: Hijjas (Local Architects and Planners); Ramboll (Project Manager and Engineer); Web Structures (Geotechnical and Structural Engineering); Web EM (Sustainability); Ernst & Young (Economic Advisor); Knight Frank (Real Estate); KPK (Quantity Surveyor); Green Growth Asia Foundation (Ecology and Conservation); Universiti Teknologi Mara (Marine Engineer); Lucian R (Visualizations)
- Partners-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Daniel Sundlin, Kai-Uwe Bergmann
- Associate-in-Charge: Jeremy Alain Siegel
- Project Leaders: Shane Dalke, Autumn Visconti, Veronica Acosta
- Team: Jeffrey Shumaker, Jamie Maslyn Larson, Stephanie Mauer, Mike Munoz English, Max Moriyama, Thomas McMurtrie, Mateo Fernandez, Lingyi Xu, Yao Tong, Yanan Ding, Won Ryu, Alan Fan, Sangha Jung, Christian Cueva, Jordan Felber, Bernardo Schumaker, Terrence Chew, Chris Pin, Tracey Sodder