Think of this as the University of the Periphery. Every city has these areas where development has not yet encroached, where farming, forest, wetlands, and fields lie vulnerable to the denizens of cheap, provisional construction – asphalt, tilt up concrete, and chain link fences and gates. The first stages of sprawl, with more to come. Some cities attempt to actively prevent this through regulation – keeping out new development – it’s always tough to stick to it when new tax base presents itself. What if instead, we injected new and clear purpose, an institutional level program to intensify the use of these resources – something to strongly counteract the urge and convenience to sprawl? This is a proposal to dedicate these natural and cultural resources to research and educational purposes and to weave that into – not a green buffer – but a university dedicated to field research in sustainability and public participation as a fundamental asset of the city – based on the natural systems and cultivation already underway there.
The Jiading Green Ring competition was part of a series of responses to how each of the five new towns orbiting Shanghai would establish their local identity to complement the main city’s historic, super-cultural capital. How to plan the periphery of cities is a long-running issue worldwide – how to keep it from turning into cheap, low-density sprawl? How can the rich nature and culture be preserved in the face of development pressure?
Jiading Green Ring proposes that the 70 square kilometers surrounding Jiading be dedicated to a new university campus to create a unified purpose and program for all the land. The campus would be dedicated to research supporting sustainable approaches in agriculture, urban forestry, hydrology, and wetlands, as well as land-based humanities, arts, and lifestyle practices. The research is founded on the land and its resources, honoring their heritage, and moving forward into highly practical services for the future region. This will be the first educational and research body in China dedicated to region-wide environmental accountability along the lines of natural and cultural interrelationships often lost due to academic disciplinary boundaries and government departmental turfs.
Jiading Green Ring campus has three divisions– in ecological practice, science, and arts / humanities, and 12 departments, each with a specific territory and constellation of research facilities. The classrooms are founded on land with just enough buildings and infrastructure to support this work. Much of the labs, workshops, and meeting spaces can be quickly established by modular and pre-fab systems that are easily adjustable and expandable. On-site housing allows students and faculty to live close to the work and allows visiting ecotourists to appreciate the work and create revenue for the campus. All the departments are linked by a land loop of trails and bridges and a water loop, allowing circumnavigation of the campus and making it available to the public but in coordination with the research needs.
As the highly visible public face of the university, the Campus Center is a substantial and very visible first phase facility for administration and management as well as orienting visitors, leaders, and future donors. It is housed in pavilions on a large lake linked by a great circular Ring Bridge spanning both highway and canal to unite areas and create an iconic ring gateway. The lake is also home a student union center with amphitheater for events, visiting faculty housing, small boat marina, and a public beach. Water quality for the lake is enhanced by an active filtration system attached to the façade of the Center to fill the water quality gap as the coming wetland complex develops as an end use passive filtration armature.
Jiading Green Ring Campus
Landscape Architect: TLS Landscape Architecture
Lead Designer: Tom Leader, Wei Fan