WAN exclusive: Melbourne architects design new city in Jiangsu Province, China
As Zaha Hadid celebrates the completion of her first project in China (Guangzhou Opera House), Melbourne-based architecture practice CK Designworks has announced a vast 20 sq km high-tech city concept in the Pukou district of Nanjing in Jiangsu Province, adding weight to the theory that China is fast becoming a springboard for international architects and designers.
The sprawling concept incorporates housing for 200,000 residents, various industrial developments and commercial facilities, schools and hospitals connected by an elevated Automated Rail Transport System inspired by the new Melbourne Tram Fleet. Ten landmark structures – such as those in the visuals displayed here – will form regular focus points across the extensive masterplan, all devised to achieve the top LEED rating of Platinum.
CK Designworks refers to the masterplan as ‘one of the largest design projects ever undertaken in the world’, presenting a concept heavily influenced by local mythology and traditional symbolism such as ‘the brilliant golden butterfly, the iconic rain-flower pebbles and the imagery created by the splash from throwing a pebble into water’.
Partner at the firm and lead architect on the project, Robert Caulfield explains: “We had a team of 32 designers and consultants working on the project around the clock for five months. The first thing we had to do was understand the philosophy and mythology of the region and to take extensive photos of the region including existing buildings, landmarks and topographical features because the local river and the mountain areas are extremely significant.”
The practice is keen to share its success with fellow designers, indicating that the design of a landmark five star hotel may be the subject of an international design competition in an effort to supply other architects with the opportunity to work in overseas markets. There is also talk of a student competition to devise a ‘gateway sculpture’ for the city. Following CK Designworks’ presentation of this concept, the firm has been invited to present to two additional local governments with the prospect of further masterplanning projects elsewhere in China.
Inspiration for the concept designs was found in the following fable:
A long time ago, a handsome young prince was sitting in a garden by a stream near the Yangtze River. He wanted to find a way to make all of his people prosperous and happy. On the banks of the stream were the most beautiful pebbles he had ever seen; he thought they must have fallen as flowers from the sky. On the water was a brilliant golden butterfly sitting on a leaf that had floated down from the mountains.
The prince was so enchanted by the beauty surrounding him he wanted to tell everyone so he threw a pebble into the water. It made such a splash that everyone turned to look and people came from all around. The ripples travelled outwards carrying the leaf and butterfly with them. As the ripples touched the shore, all of the houses turned into beautiful images of the pebbles and the butterfly flew to them one by one bringing peace, prosperity and happiness to everyone who lived in them.
People came from all over the world to see this beautiful place and today, if you look carefully, in a special place in Nanjing, you can still see the splash the prince made, the beautiful pebble houses and the butterflies. If you look down, you will still see the stream and the beautiful gardens. If you look up you will see the mountains. It is said that if you take your time, like the prince and study all of these things, respect the softness and tranquility they represent, you will have eternal peace, prosperity and happiness.