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Shaping Shanghai’s Urban Growth

Over the past few decades, Shanghai has been the site of some of the world’s most expansive development. The city’s unprecedented economic growth, rapid urbanization, and burgeoning population are contributing to its rising status as one of the world’s most influential cities.

Much of Shanghai’s recent development has been focused along the Huangpu River, which flows right through the heart of the city. The Huangpu has long been an essential component of Shanghai’s history of domestic and international trade, and the city’s system of canals and water transportation has played a critical role in the metropolis’ industrial transformation.

Over the past 20 years, Shanghai’s past of using waterways for transit has been replaced by an extensive subway system. While relatively young in comparison to other subways around the world, Shanghai’s network has grown to include 14 lines covering a total length of over 600 kilometers and handling one of the highest daily passenger volumes. This robust system has been the catalyst for much of Shanghai’s urban expansion. And as with any forward-looking city, new development along the river and adjacent to new transit stations has taken shape according to a plan.

Although Sasaki’s Shanghai office was established in 2013, our work in China began about 15 years prior. One of the firm’s earliest projects in Shanghai was the master plan for the Huangpu River. That plan anticipated the site being selected for the 2010 World Expo, and emphasized the importance of creating great open spaces that celebrated the river. Since that original plan, Sasaki has continued to play a major part in the planning and implementation of key projects throughout the city, including several major civic landscapes along new subway lines. Sasaki also developed the Vision Plan for Fuxing Island, which is the only island on the Huangpu. Re-imagining this former shipbuilding site as an innovation district for the city’s expanding creative class, the plan established a strategic foundation for public-private partnerships between Shanghai’s growing tech industry and nearby universities.

More recently, Sasaki’s work on the Historic Panlong Village Master Plan and Qingpu New Town reflects the city’s continued focus on expansion. Sasaki’s involvement in Qingpu District has spanned a decade, beginning with the master plan for the entire westward expansion of the district. This framework established the foundation and guidance for Qingpu’s current urban form. With a new subway route, Line 17, currently under construction, Qingpu’s future will further demonstrate the impact of Shanghai’s transit-oriented approach of connecting back to the city’s core. In line with regional planning goals, Sasaki teams also designed several large open spaces, including Jiading Central ParkXuhui Runway Park, and continue to advance the urban design for multiple projects in the Yuqiao Cluster in the city’s Pudong District — all of which are located along Subway Line 11. Not far away, construction is beginning soon on Zhangjiabang Park, located on Line 14.

Shanghai’s urbanization will continue to drive the transformation of its economy and quality long into the future. Principles of human-scale design and resiliency strategies are being embraced by an ever-larger audience — principles that have long been integral to Sasaki’s work worldwide. And while there has been much meaningful progress born from close collaboration with multiple public and private sector clients throughout the Shanghai region over the years, there is always still more to tackle. Sasaki principal Michael Grove, who led many of these great projects, adds “Shanghai has always been a forward-looking city, open to new ideas and willing to reinvent itself to achieve greatness. We are honored to have played a small part in its transformation, and hope to continue to inspire our clients in the region with thoughtful planning and design solutions that address the city’s unique position in the world.”

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