Amsterdam meets PRD

Project, Wuhan

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This is an image of Google Earth of the city of Amsterdam from a height of 7km. It shows the inner city of the Dutch capital, its canal structure and its 19th century expansions surrounding it. Vice-mayor Maarten van Poelgeest is the man who is in charge of spatial planning in this well-structured city. Last week it was our task to introduce mr Van Poelgeest to the dynamic conditions of Chinese cities by making a study trip. We traveled through the Pearl River Delta, from Hong Kong to Wuhan where mr Van Poelgeest attended the ISOCARP Conference, together with the deputy director of the urban planning department, Zef Hemel, who delivered a key note speech. In the conference, Amsterdam won the Award of Excellence for their Structural Vision 2040.

Of course, these trips are about understanding cities, but also about comparing. Let’s make a cross section of the urban areas that we visited, also from a height of 7km.

We started off on Hong Kong island (above), one of the densest built places on earth. The Floor Area Ratio in the city reaches levels of 5 to 7. This is mainly because the city decided to keep 75% of its land green. In 10 minutes from Occupy Central to Occupy Beach!

At Hong Kong University we discussed the extreme condition of the Hong Kong / Shenzhen border (above), where the city of Hong Kong still maintains the buffer zone that after 60 years of being a no-go area turned into a sort of eco-enclave between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. In stark contrast, the city of Shenzhen expanded to the absolute edges, so the two political systems meet each other represented by nature (HK) and high rise (China).

In Shenzhen, the heart of the PRD with 13 million inhabitants, we visited – amongst others – the BYD headquarters. In 16 years this company turned from a start-up to a 170.000 employee mega-company with 9.9% of its shares hold by Warren Buffet. The company has its headquarters in an industrial area in the north east of the city (above) in an urban condition that HKU researcher Joshua Bolchover described to as a ‘scrambled egg’. On the campus, 20,000 BYD employees live and work together.

The high speed train connects Shenzhen and Guangzhou in roughly an hour. In Guangzhou, we took the subway to the Xiaoguwei University Island (above), a recently developed area of 20 square kilometer with 10 universities where 100,000 students and 100,000 university employees live, study and work together in futuristic condition. The island has 3,5 million square meter of indoor space and can finally accomodate 400,000 people. On the island, some urban villages remain, that provide all kind of low profile facilities to the students. On Saturday night the villages form lively neighborhoods with restaurants and night markets being packed.

Finally we ended our trip in the city of Wuhan, the capital of Wuhan that celebrates the 100th birthday of the nationalist revolution that ended the rule of the emperors. The city used the celebrations to spend 3 billion on urban development: a 1911 museum, a monument, infrastructure and other buildings. Two years ago, the city planners were fully focused on the development of the Wangjiadun Central Business District. However, the planners of the Wuhan Planning and Development Institute (WPDI) shifted their focus southwards, to the lake area in the district of Wuchang. ‘The CBD is not developing fast enough.’
In the east part of the city we finally visited a new development area where the urban and the rural clash: this is where Le Corbusier and Mr Sun are confronted with each other…

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Ticket to the tropics: the little mermaid of Wuhan

Wuhan

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Today, we visited the eastern city district of Wuchang and its East Lake and did a big discovery. The Wuhan East Lake is as big as the West Lake in Hangzhou, but less famous and developed. However, the Lake has a beach, containing a small church, a great skyline, a tropical island with palm trees and even: the little mermaid. The Danish pavillion in the Shanghai Expo is second in row with this gimmick..

The East Lake with the mermaid

The East Lake in Wuhan with the little mermaid

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Wuhan: Yangzte River encounters

Wuhan

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After arriving in Wuhan, we started our exploration of the city on the riverfront of the Yangtze river. The river separates Hankou district from Wuchang district, whereas the Han river runs between Hankou and Hanyang.

The riverfront of the Yangtze is a place where a sort of left over public space appeared, since it is the natural area between the river and the dyke. In this no mans land, we ran into fishermen, brides, swimmers and others…

wuhan stylish fisherman

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Go West will visit Wuhan and Changsha

Background, Changsha, Project, Wuhan

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Wuhan in former days

Next week, the Go West Project will visit the cities of Wuhanand Changsha. In Wuhan, we will focus on residential development, whereas in Changsha we will see if the new Chinese metropolis is a harmonious entity or as fragmented as the cities in other parts of the world.

In both cities we are looking for architects, urbanists, journalists and academics who can help us with these subjects.

Do you have any suggestion, or do you come from one of the cities and do you have special ideas about reports and documentaries, please let us know! info[at]gowestproject.com

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Global Times – Nowhere to park in new auto age

Background, Wuhan

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Global Times – Nowhere to park in new auto age.

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