The Longgang River meanders through the centre of this 393,000 square-metre plot in one of Shenzhen’s former industrial areas, and it is central to the design for the masterplan and commercial architecture that Woods Bagot
is working on. It was also one of the biggest challenges of this project: for how does one create a sense of connection between the office and retail district on one side of the river, and the residential on the other?
The masterplan is currently awaiting government approval, and Woods Bagot expects to commence work on the commercial architecture for the site – which is being developed by Hazens Real Estate Group – by mid-year. Work has already begun on the residential side of the site, and it is estimated that the whole project will complete by 2019 or 2020.
Here, we talk to Stefano Tronci (ST) and Christopher Lye (CL) from Woods Bagot about creating a ‘destination’ where people can live, work, shop, play and learn in a safe, green, pedestrian-friendly environment.
The Shenzhen Government earmarked this project as one of the top 10 developments for 2016. Why is that?
ST: One is the perfect connection of the development’s infrastructure system to the city, with a direct link to one of Shenzhen’s main new subway stations. There’s also the presence of this river, which the government plans to rejuvenate and clean, and in this way, create a completely new and natural environment.
How does the river factor into the masterplan?
CL: The government is regenerating the Longgang River as an organic river, so activating the embankments and riverside are some of our key aims.
ST: Activating the river is a challenge in itself; we can’t really build on the river because it’s a protected area. And yet we wanted to have a series of activities that connect the river to the shopping environment. So we created a series of stepped platforms on the riverside, offering different programmes and dining and cafes.
We didn’t want to go for the traditional Chinese approach, where you have two lines that separate the green areas by a river from the developed areas. In a way, that typical approach makes the park area feel inaccessible.
We also envisage incorporating sustainable technologies all along the river: filtration plants, a blurred river shore that will allow for a constant cleaning of the water system, and keeping local habitat present.
How are you connecting the residential area on the far side of the river with the commercial area?
An elevated footbridge connects the commercial and retail environment to the residential area. Creating this passage means you never have to cross a road, and you’ll always be in a pedestrian-friendly area that’s safe and child-friendly. Nevertheless, we’ve designed it to link with the infrastructure environment and it’s close to roads, so we maintain ease of access to parking and transport systems.
We are also establishing pavilion and public spaces on the elevated passage across the river, providing a social environment for people to interact in. It also offers them a different way of experiencing their surroundings, and a different point of view.
We want to make the link between residential and commercial as fluid as possible, so that people can move freely from one end to another, without relying on cars or other forms of transportation. This way, it will be a more sustainable and healthy environment.