Meixi Lake master plan, Changsha, China


International architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) is pleased to announce that its 120 million square foot master plan for Meixi Lake in Changsha, China is being realized. Meixi Lake is a new city in the West Changsha Pioneer Zone in Hunan Province, centered around a 3.85 kilometer-long lake. Upon completion, the city will be home to 180,000 inhabitants, and will provide residents, workers and visitors sustainable neighborhoods for living, working, recreation, culture and entertainment.

According to KPF Design Principal James von Klemperer, “Over the last 10 years, China’s cities have grown in two ways: by increasing density within the historical cores, and by adding new cities adjacent to the old. The latter phenomenon has resulted in a twin city paradigm. Thus, we have Shanghai’s Puxi and Pudong, Beijing’s old center and new CBD. Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and many other cities have sprouted new towns.

In such a new town, like Meixi, we can introduce integrated urban innovation: we can combine water transport with localized energy production, cluster neighborhood centers, advanced flood prevention and water management, and urban agriculture. Meixi is an experiment in future city planning and building. It will serve Changsha as a new CBD, but it will also serve as a paradigm for other Chinese city planners. It’s a kind of live test case.”

China’s Urbanization:
With China’s major cities already breaching the 10 million mark in terms of population (Shanghai is home to more than 16.6 million people, Beijing 12.2 million, and Shenzhen 9 million), leaders are looking to new cities as places to house the growing urban populations. Over half of China’s 1.3 billion people currently live in urban areas – a dramatic rise from approximately 30% of the population in the late 1970s. China’s urban population is expected to grow by an additional 350 million people over the next 12 years, and by 2030, well over 200 Chinese cities will be home to more than 1 million people each. This rate of urbanization brings increasing pressure on national, provincial and city leaders to accommodate massive amounts of people, and new cities are cropping up to absorb the country’s large number of urban migrants.

While such new developments face challenges of homogeneity, organic interest or spatial variety, they also provide an unprecedented opportunity for governments, architects, developers and populations to design cities in innovative, thoughtful and sustainable environments. A range of architectural housing typologies can provide inhabitants with different housing options, and historic lessons on the importance of mixed-use environments can be integrated at the outset of design. Flexible building typologies can provide employers and entrepreneurs with a range of commercial and office buildings, in order to respond better to the changing and growing demands for flexible work spaces. Technology and sustainable design measures are incorporated at all stages of master planning and development, making smart growth an inherent part of urban development.

KPF Managing Principal Richard Nemeth adds, “Environmental sustainability is crucial to a city’s longevity. China is growing beyond its environmental capacity and has limited natural resources and fresh water. Building a city’s infrastructure from scratch opened tremendous opportunities in this area. Water recycling in the city is centralized, waste is minimized through efficient building systems, urban agriculture and lake fishing provide a portion of the food, and methane is captured in the wastewater. We were able to rethink the typical urban elements that needed improvement and implement them in this completely new city.”

Meixi Lake Master Plan:
The Meixi Lake project design team of KPF, Gale International, and Arup reintroduced many of the design principles establishes in the teams previous city design for Songdo (South Korea). The master plan seeks to establish a paradigm of man living in balance with nature. A densely concentrated urban plan, packed with a full variety of functions and building types, is integrated with mountains, lakes, parks and canals, resulting in an environment that promotes both health and prosperity. As a new center within the larger metropolitan area of Changsha, Meixi proposes to offer a new model for the future of the Chinese city. Advanced environmental engineering, pedestrian planning, cluster zoning, and garden integration are all made part of a holistic strategy of design in this healthy city. The design of Meixi allows the vitality of a dense metropolis to be combined with the beneficial qualities of a natural setting, and this forward looking community will be an ideal place to demonstrate new ideas about the way we live.

The first element of the Meixi plan is water. Water is retained to form a 40 hectare lake, which constitutes the “central park” of the city. This lake provides for boat transport linkages, creates conditions for edge gardens, provides a habitat for fish which encourages recreational fishing, and makes places for cultural venues. Around the circular heart of this water body is wrapped the mixed use CBD. Here, high rise building districts are connected by a pedestrian tram street, reducing the need for car use in the city center.

According to KPF Design Principal Trent Tesch, “Designing a city around a lake and amongst Changsha’s rich topography was a unique challenge. Our goal was clarity, and a city that was user-friendly and sustainable. We therefore invested much time thinking about transportation and movement around the city. We saw this clarity as a linear grid street system that we then formed around the lake. Out of this, a radial network of canals was born. These radial canals extend into the heart of the distinct residential communities that surround the mixed-use CBD. At the end of each of these radial canals is a vibrant town center which is meant to provide identity and services to the community.”

Each neighborhood cluster houses about 10,000 people, and includes a village center featuring a school, shopping area, and other public functions. These neighborhoods are separated from one another by green buffers which accommodate exercise fields and natural landscape zones. The architecture of each “village” is different, but material and formal coherence are encouraged within each zone so as to create a sense of place.

The radial geometry of the city plan allows for a highly efficient transport system, reducing potential pollution and energy use. Other environmental strategies include collective gray and black water systems, distributed energy plants, and urban agriculture. A river flood plane is turned into a linear park which includes recreational areas, micro farms, and residential rows.

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