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Urban Design & Urban Planning





497 ha




Changbaishan, China





Changbaishan Masterplan Competition confronts and challenges designers with the ever-recurring critical question that new cities face: How to create identity for a city, when built contextual constraints are almost non-existent? How to design a new city that is sustainable, humane, vibrant, and active?

How to design a contemporary city that still recognizes its milieu and acknowledges its local culture and heritage?

With an ambitious desire to develop Winter Sports and Tourism in the country, the Chinese Government with developers JC Group chose Changbaishan City in the Northeast of China and held an international competition for designers to brainstorm on ways to bring this dream closer to reality.

Our winning entry White Mountain | Green City aimed to create a unique invitation for people to reconnect with nature, with the roots, and the culture of the province. To sustain this claim, and although the intention of the competition was to create a seasonal destination, we cared to generate local circular economy to promote interest and varied programmatic activities all year long, which is bound to make visitors “stay 2 more nights”.

In today's modern fast-paced world, people get bored and lose interest quickly; it is also increasingly important for people to dwell in vibrant and stimulating environments with immediate access to nature (Shinrin Yoku).

Ensuing site visits, research, and analysis, our proposal divided the vast site into 3 large sections (or themes): The Cultural City, The River, and the Mountain Resort.

Integrated and intertwined with the old city, we added density, created parks, and inserted building typologies and morphologies inspired by local Architecture favoring natural lighting and ventilation. Several features and landmarks were also scattered within the urban fabric, with a major transportation hub in its center.

This strategy generated smooth crowd movement and transitions, created animated street life, lively mixed-use areas, and plazas that encouraged exploration and discovery. It also enticed locals and visitors to experience the heritage, the culture, and the history of the region, thus valorizing it, and preserving it for future generations.

Songjiang River meanders between the old town and the mountain. We optimised its water sheds, enlarged it, naturalized its banks, and enhanced its function to sustain the sponge city concept.

The river was also bifurcated and directed to the heart of the new city, and when it intersected cultural landmarks, it became a fantastic spectacle for active and unrehearsed urban life.

On this delta, we imagined stadiums, bridges, plazas, and restaurants showcasing local foods, agriculture, and traditional cuisine.

Bridging over the river and connecting the city to the mountain resort, we drew underpasses, bridges, and a feature megastructure that kept market life of local produce alive and active even in harsh winter climates.

The mountain ski & resort area featured a high-end hotel, ski slopes (ski-in-ski-out) indoor-outdoor aqua park, natural reserves, adrenaline generating activities, as well as Seniors’ Residences coupled to an agricultural museum. This allowed intergenerational contact, and seniors could work and be contributing members of the local community while also providing visitors with an opportunity to learn about local farming practices and traditions while enjoying the stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Project Narrative

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