Since the beginning of the 21st century, Beijing has made huge strides to solidify its position as one of the world’s great cities. It is a city that is modernizing rapidly— skyscrapers are rising out of fallow fields, a new transportation system is extending the reach of the city, and environmental initiatives are improving air and water quality. Fresh ideas are also emerging, while still embracing the rich traditions of the past. Near Songzhuang, a quiet village on the outskirts of Beijing, a unique opportunity exists to create a new urban district dedicated entirely to the cultivation of new ideas. The National Creative Cluster (NCC) is envisioned as the country’s preeminent knowledge hub, making the district a center for China’s innovative home-grown talent, and a destination for the world’s most creative thinkers. Sasaki’s master plan for NCC – selected in May 2012 for implementation – focuses on five structuring principles that underscore and support the overarching philosophy of the district: to bring industries with shared values and complementary skills and technologies together to help spark new ideas.
Acting as an incubator, the success of the district is tied to its openness, where people can interact in both structured and spontaneous ways to exchange ideas and have constructive dialogue. To attract a talented workforce, NCC will also provide institutes for continuing education, museums and galleries for inspiration, entertainment venues to encourage social interaction, and bold landscapes to help recharge the mind, body, and spirit. The district’s diversity of industry, people, and spatial relationships are aimed to foster creativity and encourage an endless stream of new ideas.
The first principle of Sasaki’s master plan is to integrate the urban form with the surrounding landscape. This is accomplished by creating a series of green wedges, interspersed within the urban clusters and forming a series of community parks. Second, a new transit loop creates a connection to the existing core of the Songzhaung Artists Village. Recalling the vital connections between trade and ideas, the loop encourages the movement of both people and ideas between the creative hubs at NCC and Songzhuang. Third, the plan creates a series of concentrated hubs organized along the loop, forming clusters of activity. Each hub is designed to have a unique identity, forged by a careful mix of programmatic and landscape elements. The landscape is the focus of the fourth principle of designing a landscape that is both beautiful and functional. These landscapes encourage biodiversity, filter stormwater, and provide seasonal interest and color. Finally, the fifth principle ensures that the landscape forms a strong connection between humans and nature. Innovation and creativity at NCC is fueled by the ability to walk on the generous trail system, grow vegetables on a rooftop terrace, or socialize with others in neighborhood parks.
The National Creative Cluster | Beijing China | Sasaki Associates
Client name | Hengtian Hi-Tech Investment and Development Co., Ltd.
Size | 357 hectares
Services | Planning and urban design, Landscape architecture, Architecture
Sasaki Team |
Principal-in-charge: Michael Grove
Lead Urban Designer / Project Manager: Martin Zogran
Participating Principals: Isabel Zempel, Dennis Pieprz
Urban Designer/Landscape Architect: Ming-Jen Hsueh
Urban Designers: Youngju Cho, Hsing-Chih Lee
Landscape Architects: Ponnapa Prakkamkul, Steve Walz
Landscape Ecologist: Anthony Fettes
Transportation Planner: Andy McClurg
Architect: Pablo Nistal
Graphic Designers: Jeff Sprague, Neda Movaghar
Sustainable features |
Innovative stormwater management
Alternative energy generation
IMAGE CREDITS | Sasaki Associates