Celebrating the importance of the public realm in Shanghai’s Yuqiao technology district

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Shanghai is revered by peer cities around the world for its extraordinary growth, energy, and vibrancy. Despite this enviable reputation, it is a remarkably conservative city, having made its wealth via conventional business sectors including heavy industry, banking, and finance. Understanding the impact that disruption and bold new ideas are to remaining relevant in a competitive global marketplace, Shanghai is attempting to reinvent itself as an innovation capital. In 2014, President Xi Jinping tasked Shanghai with becoming a “globally influential center for technical innovation.” As a result, 3.8% of the city’s GDP was earmarked for R&D, with the goal of having “strategic new industries” responsible for 20% of GDP by 2020. Sasaki’s master plan for the Yuqiao Tech District is a direct result of Shanghai’s amplified focus on becoming a global tech leader that rivals Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley.

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Located in the city’s Pudong District near Zhangjiang – the epicenter of Shanghai’s science and technology scene – Yuqiao is advantageously situated on metro line #11, which provides a critical transit link to downtown. Planned as a departure from the traditional isolated and enclosed campus of singular uses, Yuqiao celebrates the power of ideas through transparency, helping to attract, inspire, and nurture talent. Programming strategies were intentionally considered to allow for information exchange, the cross-pollination of ideas, shared work spaces, and forums to exhibit and demonstrate results. By designing spaces that promote synergy and the deliberate mix of disciplines to represent diverse perspectives, start-ups are linked to venture capital, production, and other related business to allow for efficiency in both investment opportunities and tactical support.

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With the understanding that the highest-quality urban experience begins with a robust public realm, Yuqiao is a departure from the area’s other technology districts by leading with landscape. The open space at Yuqiao not only creates a continuity of active parks, streets, and plazas, but also reflects and compliments the activity and energy happening within the buildings. Delineations between public and private space are deliberately blurred, allowing the street and other outdoor spaces to be used for work, recreation, display, and social interaction. Industries within Yuqiao reflect this diversity, with program ranging from traditional office and retail services to cutting edge live/work maker space and light manufacturing. Architecturally, an inventive solution for the urban block typology advocates for transparency and cross-pollination, with circulation routes punctuating spaces that traditionally would have been enclosed. This approach celebrates the importance of the public realm as something not only relegated to the outdoors, but as a powerful tool to unite people and ideas. By showcasing innovation in a manner that occupies the street, the podium, the façade, and interior spaces, new ideas are exposed, take root, and flourish in every square inch of the district.

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Master Plan | Sasaki / KPF
Architect | KPF
Landscape Architect | Sasaki