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The Diverse Scales of “Green” in Chinese Urbanism

The Diverse Scales of “Green” in Chinese Urbanism

When we were forced to be confined at home due to the self-quarantine policy of the COVID-19 global pandemic, everyone must have spent a tremendous amount of time looking out from their window. Sometimes when we are so exhausted with everyday work and life, we just wish to have a quick getaway to oceans and forests, somewhere close to the natural green.

As few people would really like to reside in a city full of skyscrapers made of concrete and glass, architects and urban designers have come up with ways of inserting green spaces in urban fabric to increase residents’ physical activities and reduce people’s exposure to air and noise pollution. It has also been scientifically proven that urban green spaces can bring mentally suffering urbanites, psychological relaxation. In the following, we will look at various design practices that attempt to green our living spaces, from micro, meso, and macro-scale respectively.

Micro Scale - The Interior Space


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PP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture Office
PP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture Office

Designed by People’s Architecture Office, PP Garden is a gender-neutral public restroom that provides inclusive relief for those in need and serves as an unlikely social space. To enliven the space, the designers filled the wall with hundreds of different plants. Selected and cared for by the adjacent offices, the plants can be freely rearranged. The greenery can also provide a topic for a conversation.

PP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture Office
PP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture Office
PP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture Office
PP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture Office
PP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture Office
PP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture Office

More Design Office, takes another approach that focuses on circulation and encourages people to take a linear flower journey of revealing. In their project Absolute Flower Shop, each space is designed to create a unique engagement with the flower arrangements and the viewer. The design is constituted of three elements: a street gallery, an artificial landscape, and a secret garden. Within the generous 100-square-meter secret garden, an existing tree is used as a shelter, and an L-shaped bench wraps around the tree, making up a quiet oasis in the heart of Shanghai city.

Absolute Flower Shop / More Design Office. Image © Dirk Weiblen
Absolute Flower Shop / More Design Office. Image © Dirk Weiblen
Absolute Flower Shop / More Design Office. Image © Dirk Weiblen
Absolute Flower Shop / More Design Office. Image © Dirk Weiblen
Absolute Flower Shop / More Design Office. Image © Dirk Weiblen
Absolute Flower Shop / More Design Office. Image © Dirk Weiblen

A Chinese roof garden designed by V Studio takes on an interesting material choice and plant selection. The courtyard and patio are filled with green bamboos, creating an artistic aroma as if the building is located among bamboo forests. The interior programming of the building is extremely clear. The private space and the service space are seen as different "boxes", where the space between the "boxes" in the area for public activities.

© Jin Weiqi
© Jin Weiqi
© Jin Weiqi
© Jin Weiqi
© Jin Weiqi
© Jin Weiqi
© Jin Weiqi
© Jin Weiqi

Refreshing light, pure white walls, and verdant bamboo are the main elements of the space. The courtyards, patios and atriums around the building not only blur the relationship between the indoor and the outdoor but also bring full natural lighting to the building. The changes in light and shadow at different times of the day bring rich experiences to the space. The use of pure white integrates all the elements and materials in the interior to create an extremely pure and abstract spatial atmosphere.

Meso Scale - The Building Skin

Milan-based architectural office Stefano Boeri Architetti has various projects involving vertical forests, a building prototype that focuses not only on human beings but also on the relationship between humans and other living species.

Nanjing Vertical Forest / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Nanjing Vertical Forest / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Nanjing Vertical Forest / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Nanjing Vertical Forest / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Nanjing Vertical Forest / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Nanjing Vertical Forest / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Nanjing Vertical Forest / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Nanjing Vertical Forest / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti

The Nanjing Vertical Forest intervention is the first of its kind created by Stefano Boeri Architetti in Asia and is located in the Nanjing Pukou District. The two towers that make up the complex are characterized by the alternation of balconies and plant containers modeled on Milan’s Vertical Forest, and the façades are home to 600 large trees, 200 medium-sized trees, and over 2,500 shrubs and trailing plants which will cover an area of 4,500 square metres. The project has been designed as a genuine vertical forest that through the planting of 27 native species will help to regenerate local biodiversity and reduce CO2 emissions by around 18 tons, producing up to 16.5 tons of oxygen every year.

Guizhou Mountain Forest Hotel / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Guizhou Mountain Forest Hotel / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Guizhou Mountain Forest Hotel / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Guizhou Mountain Forest Hotel / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti

Another project by Stefano Boeri Architetti, the Mountain Forest Hotel, is located in the Valley of Ten thousand Peaks, Guizhou province, China. The design was inspired by the valley’s indigenous ecosystem and endemic morphological qualities, with a unique topography that sees literally thousands of rocky hills completely covered with vegetation colonizing a vast green plain.

Guizhou Mountain Forest Hotel / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti
Guizhou Mountain Forest Hotel / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti

The building’s main facade opens towards the valley with a system of almost continuous sloping loggias that resemble the surrounding near-vertical hillsides. The entire length of the loggias has small tubs that contain a varied amount of vegetation comprising trees, shrubs, and small bushes in such a way that an equal amount of greenery and regular natural light is guaranteed for each room.

Macro Scale - The Public Spaces

MVRDV has revealed its design for a wholesale market for fruit and vegetables in Tainan, Taiwan. Defined by a terraced, accessible green roof, the open-air market will serve as both an important hub in Taiwan’s supply chain, and a destination for meeting, socializing, and taking in views of the surrounding landscape.

Tainan Market / MVRDV. Image Courtesy of MVRDV
Tainan Market / MVRDV. Image Courtesy of MVRDV
Tainan Market / MVRDV. Image Courtesy of MVRDV
Tainan Market / MVRDV. Image Courtesy of MVRDV

Named the “Tainan Xinhua Fruit and Vegetable Market,” the MVRDV scheme transforms an often-prosaic aspect of the food industry into a public experience of food and nature. The design comprises a simple open structure with high undulating ceilings that allow for plenty of natural ventilation, with an undulating terraced green roof that is accessible from its eastern corner, where the terraces step down to ground level.

Tainan Market / MVRDV. Image Courtesy of MVRDV
Tainan Market / MVRDV. Image Courtesy of MVRDV

The terraces will house the different products of the area. The building, therefore, provides an elevated platform from which visitors can appreciate the landscape that characterizes this part of Taiwan. At the same time, it takes on the appearance of rolling green hills, thus becoming a continuation of that landscape.

Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Hu Wenkit
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Hu Wenkit
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Yang Min
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Yang Min

Designed by the Japanese architectural office Nikken Sekkei, Shanghai Greenland Center serves as an urban farm that merge nature and city life. A featured green urban valley complex with a “street landscape park” is sitting right above one of the most utilized metro hubs in Shanghai.

Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Yang Min
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Yang Min
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Yang Min
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Yang Min

The ‘roof’ is split into different scales and connected in various heights, where interesting terraces and slopes outdoor are connected three-dimensionally, responding to the architectural functions below and human activities within it.

Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Yang Min
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Yang Min
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Hu Wenkit
Shanghai Greenland Center / Nikken Sekkei. Image © Hu Wenkit

Meanwhile, the urban complex utilizes nature’s own cooling system to counteract the heat-island effect, refreshing the city’s environment as well as the social environment.

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Green. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

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Cite: Scarlett Miao. "The Diverse Scales of “Green” in Chinese Urbanism" 28 Feb 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/957400/the-diverse-scales-of-green-in-chinese-urbanism> ISSN 0719-8884
Guizhou Mountain Forest Hotel / Stefano Boeri Architetti. Image Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti

中国都市主义下多尺度的绿色空间渗透

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