Two Sasaki Projects Win 2021 PLAN Awards; Four Other Projects Shortlisted
Sasaki projects were honored in four categories by the international design magazine
After 40 years of development, Shenzhen’s Luohu District, the first gateway connecting Hong Kong and mainland China, is long due for revitalization. Both the district’s urban environment and its traditional industries no longer match Shenzhen’s growing status as a first-tier Chinese city. Luohu, Shenzhen’s first district, needs a large makeover to strengthen its regional competitiveness.
A lack of planning during Shenzhen’s early period of urbanization and rapid population growth have caused many issues in Luohu today. An outdated transit system, incomplete bicycle and pedestrian networks, unappealing public realm, and oversized industrial and transportation uses dominating the physical center of the district have slowed the area’s growth.
This project aims to systematically improve the public realm and urban structure of Luohu, aligning its urban regeneration efforts with its position as the commercial center of Shenzhen, China’s first special economic zone.
The project’s overall design concept, “From Luohu Bridge to the Artery of Life,” uses public open space corridors and transportation hubs as catalysts to rejuvenate Luohu into a more vibrant urban district. The plan restructures Luohu’s open space system by redeveloping former industrial and transportation land for vital urban uses and creating a public space network along the former railroad, the existing river course, and major public streets. The new design replaces Luohu Bridge, the limited transportation linkage established 40 years ago between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, with the Artery of Life, a continuous public realm system from the Wutong Mountain range north of Luohu all the way to the large ecological reserve in Hong Kong.
The Artery of Life, which runs through the center of Luohu District, builds upon the north-south corridor along the existing Guang-Shen Railway and Buji River. It will connect Luohu Port and Hong Kong on the south with the proposed Sungang redevelopment zone and Wutong Mountain on the north, through the city center. The Artery of Life will become the spine of the public realm and a new gateway to Hong Kong and the world, catalyzing urban regeneration and industry renewal of adjacent areas.
With the construction of the new Sungang High-Speed Railway Station and the underground railway system within the urban area of Shenzhen, the existing rail yard and the under-served neighborhood in Sungang Area will be transformed into a contemporary mixed-use district and a new urban magnet, revitalizing the former industrial zone on the north of the district.
Individual characteristics of each street are celebrated based on their existing conditions and positioning for future. Dedicated bike lanes and clear right-of-way for pedestrians are proposed to provide a safe, slow, and engaging experience on the street level. Various programs organized in diverse spatial forms will compliment the uses found within adjacent commercial, office, residential, and civic buildings. With holistic renovation, the streets will serve as major platforms for exciting urban living.
The existing railway station near Luohu Port will be decommissioned and converted into an energetic lifestyle hub. Its innovative thermo-dynamic façade helps ventilate indoor spaces to provide a more comfortable experience. The design transforms the building from a monotonous transportation node into a vibrant urban destination.
The front park of the lifestyle hub integrates with the basement programs through the kiosk and sunken garden, providing a comfortable outdoor space extending activities out from the building. It creates a sense of the “city’s living room,” not only serving the customers of the hub, but also offering a valuable open space for civic use in this dense urban area.
Extending from the Artery of Life, the open space network follows major public streets in the district. By holistically improving existing developments along the urban frontage and placing infill projects at strategic locations, the plan creates complete streets that promote slow traffic and resiliency, integrate with urban life, and celebrate each public street’s unique character.
Streetscape improvements are addressed in seven aspects: transportation, program, building façade along the street, stormwater management, planting, site furnishing, and signage systems.
By limiting the number and width of vehicular travel lanes and promoting public transit over the use of personal cars, street spaces become more compact, contributing to the district’s urban scale. Designated bike lanes are integrated into the street section to facilitate the “last one kilometer” commute between transit and various destinations.
Rain gardens along medians as well as permeable paving at pedestrian spaces reduce street runoff, recharge groundwater, and divert filtered stormwater to cisterns for maintenance and operational uses of the public realm. Street-side rain gardens also provide important urban habitats for birds, insects and other invertebrate species, contributing to the ecological value of the urban district.
The plan preserves all existing trees and plants rows of new trees along the sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and road medians to create a comfortable microclimate, seasonal color, urban habitat, and pedestrian-scaled streets.
The building façades are renovated to promote interaction between the building program and street life by increasing its transparency, adding balconies, and reorganizing retail signage along the podium level.
Diverse programs organized in various spatial forms along each street will complement the uses of adjacent commercial, office, residential, and civic buildings, with an integrated family of site furnishing and wayfinding system designed for the entire Luohu district.
Along retail-fringed streets, such as Bao’An Road, new urban balconies will be introduced at the first and second levels, blending private and public spaces, bringing stores more commercial opportunities while activating the public realm with more street life.
In the vegetation-buffered streets, such as Wenjin Road, which is surrounded by residential communities and schools, a recreational corridor with a series of program spaces will take advantage of the existing green buffer. The corridor will provide precious recreational spaces for the nearby communities in this densely populated area, as well as link the neighborhood with nature.
At Shennan Avenue, the thoroughfare of the city, trees planted in the medians scale down the monumental street, while pedestrian spaces on either side carve out a series of urban living rooms from the large setback, creating spaces for cultural exhibition, outdoor dining, and small gatherings, serving nearby office workers and visitors.
Existing pedestrian overpasses will be renovated to serve people with a range of ability levels. The new pergola structure over the existing overpass, made of bamboo and ETFE membrane, will respond to the local climate and shelter people from heavy rainstorms as well as burning sun.
With a holistic renovation, the streets will provide more efficient urban services, higher-quality open spaces, and serve as major platforms for exciting urban living.
Following the master plan, the design team developed the Streetscape Improvement Design Guidelines, summarizing the design principles and typical design approaches for each major street. The guidelines were adopted during this project’s implementation as well as the renovation of many other streets in Shenzhen.