Beijing back to business

Monday 26 Oct 2009

CBD design competition concludes with SOM triumphant

Beijing has experienced a reawakening in light of the 2008 Olympics. While the embers of the international event are still glowing in the presence of the various stadia and regenerative projects, it is clear that China is not going to let the good work be un-done as the winner of the competition for the Central Business District design was announced today.

Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) was chosen from an invited list of seven of the top architecture establishments worldwide to develop designs which will see Beijing's CBD double in size over the next eight years and transformed under a new sustainable remit.

The Chicago and Shanghai offices of SOM collaborated in the competition, led by Philip Enquist - Partner in Charge of Urban Design and Planning at the firm. The winning design creates three new districts anchored by signature parks and green boulevards. According to the programme developed by Chaoyang District Government and the Beijing CBD Administration Committee, a 1.53-ha-large public green land is set for the core of the development. Sustainability is high on China's political agenda of late. Having proven necessary under the Olympic guidelines the continued efforts are helping to cement China's international status as a leader in sustainability reform.

The SOM design contributes to change by re-examining the way residents travel to and from the CBD, proposing new modes of public transportation including an express commuter rail service between the Beijing Capital International Airport, the CBD, and the high speed rail service at Beijing South Station. The streets are mapped in relevant sectors into a network of small, walkable blocks, encouraging pedestrians and cyclists and for further distances a streetcar system is proposed to link the areas.

All in, energy consumption is projected to reduce by as much as 50% after implementation of SOM's strategy, water consumption by 48%, landfill waste by 80% and carbon emissions by 50%.

While the expansion of the CBD is set to create up to 100,000 jobs, and 1.4 million sq m of office space in Beijing, according to international press outlet China Daily the expansion of the CBD could involve the relocation of 10,000 households from the predominantly residential district. Not all is lost to those who may be forced out, however. According to property brokers quoted in China Daily, prices for residences in the CBD have grown by one third since news of the expansion was released. An investment of US$ 2billion in the district is expected to take just 6-9 years to pay back.

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