We are facing unprecedented political and environmental challenges. With COVID-19 causing an enduring trauma to Wuhan and the world, it also raises doubts about the high-density urbanization strategy and the city's ability to respond to emergencies. As the world continues to learn and innovate, Wuhan needs to evolve from the pandemic, improve its capacity and resilience to deal with potential public health threats and other disasters. Thereby, South Core, Central Zone of Wuhan Optics Valley Urban Design, has become a chance Sasaki takes to help Wuhan reconsider the urbanization strategies. By adapting advanced planning theories, techniques, ecological measures, public participation, and feasible planning guidance, Sasaki hopes to create a safer, healthier, and more resilient post-pandemic planning model for Wuhan and the citizens. 1. Value proposition and methods of urban design in the post-pandemic era Advocate a healthy, inclusive, and open-space-oriented urban planning value system. With the public transit infrastructures, the high-density development approach seems economically logical. Through collaboration with the local agencies, Sasaki proposes prioritizing the high-quality outdoor public spaces as the essential layer of the design framework while balancing the economic indicators. First of all, Sasaki's plan focuses on the accessibility of public space on multiple levels in a dense environment. Secondly, the project proposes expanding the public realm with the street design to offer flexible, safer, and healthier public spaces to maintain social distance while enjoying the activities. Climate adaptive urban design helps cities breathe better, especially for the region known for the summer heatwaves. The project utilizes the local climate data for the wind and thermal simulations, contributing to a series of design iterations, such as block scale reductions, building orientations, urban wall openings for the summer wind, etc. The plan aims to provide a healthy and comfortable microclimate condition beneficial for outdoor activities. The master plan also aims to innovate and integrate new technologies, such as IoT, 5G, and City Cloud, to better cope with unknown challenges in the future. From the sensors to the 5G high-speed transmission network to support "City Cloud", the master plan for Wuhan Optics Valley South Core will take advantage of the state-of-art infrastructure to help prepare and respond for future uncertainties. 2. Create socially equitable park systems and enhance the ecological resilience of the city The Lively Green Loop links the major city parks, public amenities, and community green space as one of the essential centerpieces of the project. The loop consists of six parts: Smart Green Corridor, Community Forest Corridor, Lotus Pond Park, Three-dimensional Promenade, Festival Square, and Ecological Park, with a mix of urban, recreational, cultural programs to anchor the main entry points. People can conveniently access civic programs along the loop within proximity through the connected pedestrian network. On the other hand, the Lively Green Loop links a series of urban plazas, forming a completed and unified urban open park system. The project will build a resilient infrastructure to enhance the urban ecology and biodiversity. The multi-dimensional urban park system serves as a sponge infrastructure to better manage the stormwater and increase the soil water conservation capacity, from the mountain parks to the great lawns, streets, community green space, and ecological buffers. Moreover, the green open spaces will act as a habitat for birds and wild animals in the region. 3. Provide practical urban design and planning guidelines, return the energetic and humanized street to citizens. The project proposes a design that is both pedestrian-friendly and implementation-friendly. Another core design principle is implementing a small-block framework, which offers more active urban interfaces yet a walkable public realm. However, local regulations have made prioritizing the pedestrian over the vehicle challenging. We work closely with a local agency(WPDI) to develop an innovative yet practical hybrid block system that integrates two sets of urban grids into the framework. The small grid creates a set of pedestrian-friendly urban alleys with diverse and vibrant city interfaces. The large grid allows the adjacent parcels to be combined, offering flexibility and further reducing the vehicle-driven requirements, such as overwhelming parking entrances, car lanes. The result of the hybrid block system focuses on the users and pedestrians while improving the rationality and feasibility of the design framework. With the priority on the public realm and the streets, the project aims to deliver quality yet sustainable street space for the general public through guiding the urban interfaces, tree planting selection, local materials, and street furniture. Furthermore, the permeable pavings and integrated rain gardens work together to enhance the performance of street runoff and stormwater management. People can comfortably sit down on the flexible street furniture, enjoy the sunshine and fresh air while still working or dining under the dappled shadows dropped by local trees.
At Sasaki, we believe defining the future of place must be a collective, contextual, and values-driven exercise. We all have a stake in this work.
For over sixty years, Sasaki has brought together the best of architecture, interior design, planning and urban design, space planning, landscape architecture, and civil engineering to shape the places in which we live. Out of our Boston, Denver, and Shanghai offices we are defining the contours of place and redefining what’s possible along the way. Today, we are a diverse practice of over 300 professionals who share a singular passion for creating authentic, equitable, and inspiring places.