Housing for 90,000 people, retail, culture, services, green space, and a CBD area with a large mall, office buildings and retail. Changyuan, Henan province, China
Synopsis: This masterplan for an extension to an existing city in China was conceived by a young team of architects, connected to the Architectural Association in London. They used this unique opportunity to bring their current academic research to a challenging context, creating a framework for significant improvement in the living conditions in one of the fastest developing areas in China.
Using custom-build generative design tools, the masterplan was developed to incorporate careful variations and exceptions to the conventions in Chinese urban planning models that are in practice today. The plan challenges the closed urban block, repetitive housing tower typologies and the standardised urban grid that overemphasises the car as primary means of transportation. Instead it offers a variable density urban fabric, using differentiated typologies of housing towers, low-rise massing and open space planning. The plan incorporates various neighborhood qualities and green corridors aimed at promoting social integration, healthy leisure activities and sustainable forms of transport. It offers a framework for development of housing that will offer a range of choices to China's growing middle class.
Introduction - Urban Systems was commissioned for a detailed research and design framework for the masterplanning of a New Urban Centre of around 2.2 by 2 km, connecting to and complementing an existing city in Henan province, China. The masterplan incorporates a variable density planning strategy that creates varied neighbourhood qualities and building typologies based on the existing and altered housing typologies, water management networks and other infrastructural systems.
Through the setting up of a customised digital model that translates economical and spatial relationships into building massing arrangements and circulation networks, we were able to create a flexible planning model that could be adjusted throughout several stages of development with clients, local government and external consultants. While carefully controlling the building densities, program distribution, sunlight and green space access for each of the new plots, the masterplan offers a open-ended planning framework for the further architectural development of this new urban district.
It challenges classical masterplanning strategies of strict programmatic zoning and clustering of mono-cultural building typologies and proposes a refined mixing strategy of buildings types, programs and open spaces that stimulates the longer term economic sustainability of city life against the backdrop of ChinaÕs rapidly transforming urban culture.
Context - Changyuan countyÕs strategic location and connection to major national transport networks make it well placed for economic development under the new Ômid-China Economic ZoneÕ policy. Extracting the underlying programmatic structure of the existing city allowed us to understand existing relationships and the means by which new development can integrate into, and amplify the economic, cultural and political organization of the city.
Program Brief - A proposed mixture of urban programs was used for the concept planning of the masterplan. The mixture of programs and services is based on case studies of new city developments, adjusted to compensate for the current lack of certain types of services in the existing city. Programs were grouped in clusters that will form the main central CBD, Retail and Cultural area and three smaller sub-centres containing various local services.
Networks - We proposed deliberate interferences within the street grid to create new types of urban spaces within the plots and offer unique spatial conditions that create 'friction' between special programs and circulation flows. A network of landscape corridors create additional spatial qualities of openness and presence of nature within the city, offering residents and visitors a range of activity areas along continuous networks for water management, pedestrians and electric scooters which are very widely in use in the city.
Density and Typology Variation - One of the key qualities of the proposal is a varied urban fabric. Instead of an equal and homogenised distribution of building types and neighbourhood character, we proposed to concentrate clusters of high-density residential and commercial programs around the main centre and sub-centres. In other part of the site emerged different urban qualities, such as more suburban, open and green areas. The resulting range and mixture of living scenarios creates a vibrant and economically sustainable urban masterplan, offering a wide range of property choices to future inhabitants.
The plinth building design strategy is aimed at intermixing the housing towers with other types of living conditions and at providing city blocks with ample retail and service programs that create a wide range of spatial qualities and neighbourhood conditions. The varying levels of controlled access and privacy ranges from very private, secure and internalized community to more porous, open urban conditions that create vibrant pedestrian sub-centre conditions.
Urban Systems Office LLP - Urban Systems is a London-based architectural design office led by Jeroen van Ameijde and Brendon Carlin. The office employs digitally enabled design and construction techniques to deliver architectural, innovative urban and infrastructural solutions. Applicable to a wide range of project scales and sites, this methodology allows for the generation of highly adapted and site specific outcomes, producing informed design solutions that contribute to the sustainability and vibrancy of our complex urban ecologies.
Urban Systems has since its launch in 2012 delivered several complex design projects, including a 5,500,000 m2 masterplan for the extension of Changyuan (Henan, China), a 400,000 m2 retail and leisure complex, and several mixed-use and residential projects.
The office has collaborated with several leading consultants including ARUP, Buro Happold, Bollinger+Grohmann and is currently working on an office tower for the Bank of China, a science museum and medical university building.