All Systems Go

Architect, Paul Zheng, describes how integration of technology, ecology and city-scale design is creating more progressive, globally influential places.​

At the heart of any new city masterplan is a desire to enable better connections, strengthen communities and improve quality of life. But for cities to grow and have global influence in a modern world, they must be at the forefront of innovation and technology.  It’s an age-old debate. Does development drive innovation or does innovation drive development? In Shanghai, the discussions have stopped and the building has started. The city’s authorities began at the origin of innovation, understanding how ideas are generated, and came to the conclusion that the best way to encourage sustainable growth was to integrate academia and industry, and encourage interactions between scientists, students and businesses.

“Technological innovation is the essential force that propels social progress.”

Wang Zhigang, China’s Minister of Science and Technology

In January 2022, we won an international competition to complete the urban design of the New Pujiang Centre in Shanghai. As it stands, Pujiang is the largest of nine riverside communities. Located on the east bank of the Huangpu River, a tributary of the Yangtze, the town is 16km from Peoples’ Square, the centre of Shanghai and is a key location for commercial, industrial activity in China. This district-level project forms part of the Minhang 2035 masterplan. Through the transformation and modernisation of the Mindong Industrial Park, 5.25km2 of urban design activity will create a state-of-the-art city centre integrating industry and world-leading research to enable the wider growth and influence of Shanghai. Focusing on civilisation, development, history and nature, we are building a brand-new urban picture, unseen in other conurbations, where business and innovation remains crucial to the success of an entire city, but where a new blueprint supports easier accessibility and diversified cultural tourism with enhanced quality of life.

Shanghai Minhang Pujiang Centre

The final piece of this new town’s innovative design puzzle is the integration of nature and biodiversity. The new Pujiang Centre is a proposed world-class sponge city where a network of green infrastructure will collect and purify rainwater, prevent flooding and recycle water resources to become a self-growing and self-improving urban ecosystem. The components include green roofs, tree pits, green spaces, floating planting, aeration, attenuation, bio-retention swales, permeable surfaces, rain gardens and filtration beds. These core elements reinvigorate the riverfront, weaving an ecological network for increased biodiversity at the heart of this centre for tourism and living.

Jiabao Smart Bay

Jiabao Smart Bay

Similarly, in the industrial park of Jiading north ecological corridor, our design for the Jiabao Smart Bay Future City consists of a whole new neighbourhood, an activity centre, a creative centre and a new, smart industrial park. These facilities are combined by the ‘cloud platform’, a multi-functional complex building serving as retail, gym, conference centre, research lab and co-working space. City planning espouses nature-friendly coordinated development. It respects the high-quality ecological environment of surrounding dense forests and water systems and creates a nature hub of small scale buildings interwoven with nature, contrasting with the skyline of tall buildings in downtown Jiading.

Our aim is to encourage a sense of community and belonging within the parameters of a modern, smart, technology-enabled city. Before too long, Pujiang and Jiading will become bustling and engaging places, promoting natural habitats, health and wellbeing; completing their transformation from urban, desolate areas to natural, active and commercially successful places.