Out of 12 finalist teams from 10 countries, SOM and TLS Landscape Architecture were chosen to design the first phase of a new economic zone referred to as the Xiong'an New Area, which is envisioned as China's model “city of the future”. The competition attracted over 200 entries. The expert jury panel selected SOM and TLS's proposal for “its global vision, world-class standards, sensitivity to Chinese heritage and culture, and innovative approach to urban design”.
Located about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing in the Hebei province, the Xiong'an New Area was established as a major economic zone by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017. The province includes major wetland ecosystems and Baiyangdian, the largest freshwater lake in Northern China. In designing their proposal, “City of Life”, SOM and TLS prioritized ecology and human experience.
The first phase of the project is a 38 km2 area called the Boot Area, of which 26 km2 will be designated for urban development that aims to promote innovation and high-quality development, and showcase new urban prototypes, SOM describes.
According to the design team, the scheme “will restore and protect the natural environment, including native forests and wetlands, and it includes a comprehensive open space system surrounding the waterways. By integrating architecture with nature and the landscape, the urban design prioritizes residents' health and wellbeing.” Other objectives in their proposal included creating holistic sustainable systems, introducing green infrastructure, integrating advanced technologies and multi-modal public transit, and more.
“When we first thought about what will make this city exceptional in the world we asked ourselves these questions: How people will live here in a new way? How can their lives integrate with nature and Baiyangdian? How will the new residents establish their social fabric? What cultural legacy will inform these new social spaces?” describes TLS Principal and Founder Tom Leader.
“The principles of livability, resiliency, and the preservation of local culture and heritage are at the core of our approach to urban planning and design,” said Thomas Hussey, SOM Director of Urban Design and Planning, in a statement. “Our design creates innovative, new typologies in planning, landscape, and architecture, for new ways of urban living and working in nature.”
From February and May of this year, the Xiong’an New Area administrative committee led a series of workshops with SOM, TLS, domestic planning and design experts, and 15 planning, architecture, landscape, infrastructure and transportation design firms. The design scheme for the Boot Area is close to completion, and guidelines for implementation are underway.
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