Shenxi New Town Centre
Invited urban planning competition
Shenxi New Town is supposed to develop as China’s medicine and pharmaceutical capital, with a future population of about 500,000 inhabitants. It is located right in the middle between Benxi City (1.6 million inhabitants) and the 8 million metropolis of Shenyang, only 30 km from Taoxian International Airport. A subway line, currently under construction, will help integrating Shenxi New Town into the superior city network.
The growth of herbs in the nearby Changbai Mountain range has always played an important role in the wider Benxi region’s history. Provided that Shenxi New Town will become a dense business and administrative centre, the urban design approach has been guided by the development of natural features that already exist on the site. Keeping the environment balanced and sound is a key strategy, since it is nature – home to herbal plants – that provides the reason for implementing the urban design.
Especially the water courses flowing down from the surrounding mountains can enhance a strong connection between cityscape and landscape. Green corridors accompany the rivers and – as they come closer to the new town center – transform into landscape parks on both sides of the rivers.
These parks help keeping the urban fabric on a distance. Set back from the river bed, they give space for relaxation, recreation, but also to environmentally friendly pedestrian and bicycle use.
In the landscape concept, the Northern Riverbank assumes characteristics of an urban waterfront. It is marked by a pedestrian path made of colourful tiles which provide a pleasant spot throughout the year, where in Shenxis’ harsh winters flowers wouldn’t have ease to grow. Sharp edges and a range of features for pedestrians – platforms, pathways, ramps and stairs – put it in contrast to the Southern Riverbank Park, which is kept more naturally.
The urban fabric approaches the riverside parks in layers of different functions. Moving northwards, the layers increase in density. The 1st layer combines cultural and entertainment functions. Cultural buildings are aligned like pearls on a string, giving identity to thematic squares in their front: Museum of History, Technique & Science, Planning & Art Gallery, Library and Theatre/CPPCC Building (for political and for theatre & music performances) mark the principal cultural institutions within the New Town. These 4 cultural buildings merge into a belt of entertainment and shopping facilities, spots of health and wellbeing, restaurants and cafés.
The 1st layer lives from detached buildings granting a close connection between built and non-built environment.
The 2nd layer is composed of U-shaped mixed-use buildings opening up to the parks and a following row of courtyard buildings with a pedestrian zone in-between.
The following 3rd layer of high-rises is hosting representative offices; the urban structure culminates in a Business Square surrounded by four particularly shaped office towers.
The gradual increase of building heights towards north guarantees that most of the buildings benefit from a good sunlight exposure and from either their visual or physical connection to the green.
The 4th and last layer accommodates a mixed use of offices, service apartments and commercial & education facilities. This layer decreases in density and height and shall connect the urban fabric with its hinterland. It provides more differentiated open spaces of smaller scale.
At Theatre Square, the east-west running axis intersects with the north-south axis, which starts at Business Square in the north and ends in the round-shaped Governmental Plaza in the south.
The Governmental & Administration Complex occupies the most privileged location: on an exposed piece of land at the confluence of two rivers. It is embedded in a green surrounding which integrates it into an overlaying park, but also isolates the cluster from the rest of the town. A number of buildings are unified under a circular-shaped roof which makes the complex dominate rather by shape than by height. While the municipal functions are spread over a series of buildings, the governmental administration is located in a landmark tower at the edge of the circular shape. The buildings embrace a plaza for celebrations which gets access from north through a gate and opens towards the park in the south.