The story appears on

Page B3

December 9, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Urban planner who breaks down gates

A lot of China's urban planning separates residential, commercial, entertainment and other zones, but an Australian architect working in Shanghai designs new mixed-use areas without gated communities. Sam Riley reads the blueprint.

Derelict warehouses, rundown former industrial sites and rubbish-strewn vacant land should be seen as opportunities to build communities rather than blights on an urban landscape, according to Australian architect James Brearley.

Brearley and his wife Fang Qun have spent close to a decade in China running their Shanghai-based architectural firm, Brearley Architects and Urbanists (BAU), which has been at the forefront of a rethink in how cities in China are planned.

The Melbourne architect recently completed a book, "Networks Cities," which examines how to integrate recreational, commercial, retail and residential spaces into coherent city-wide networks.

"Our approach is to distribute land use in a network across the city, so that every district has a piece of a park network running through it, connecting it to the rest of the green of the city, and there are also interlinking retail and commercial networks," he says.

In his book Brearley challenges the concept of dissecting urban areas into industry-specific planning zones, such as high-tech or research and development zones.

Rather, he focuses on mixed-use developments that aim to bring life to cities and make them "people-friendly."

He argues that a large-scale, heavily zoned planning approach creates lifeless urban areas, where there is not enough critical mass of permanent residents to create a sense of community and support surrounding amenities.

Brearley says it is possible to apply his design ideas to established cities but the book mainly focuses on where most of China's new urban planning is being done, namely on green field sites on the periphery of cities.

He has applied these design principles to a number of projects in cities across China.

One of his biggest projects involves planning a 10-square-kilometer area in Chengdu, where the capital city of Sichuan Province is expanding on its eastern extremities.

Brearley is also in the initial stages of designing a plan for a new 50-square-kilomter site on the outskirts of Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu Province.

In Shanghai, he and his wife have taken a novel approach to revitalizing a rundown former industrial complex on Jiashan Road in Xuhui District.

He is also looking at converting several disused or under-utilized factories in the Jinqiao area. It is currently an industrial area but it is hoped the addition of residential developments will revitalize the area.

Along with converting industrial land, Brearley has also designed a number of parks on disused land along Suzhou Creek in Changning District and a park in Hongqiao area.

"We are all about creating places where people can get out of their houses and into the city," he says, "whereas the modern Chinese formula seems to be about staying into your gated community."

The Suzhou Creek park design focuses on providing access to the parks, through a network of paths running both along the river and through the adjacent park land.

The park design also aims to provide amenities including a 5-kilometer-long rubberized running track and several playgrounds, one of which includes parts of a dismantled ship.

"We want to provide places to play for kids and adults," he says.

The Jiashan Markets development revitalized the site of an old 1970s-era state-owned knitting factory. The site had fallen into disrepair and sections of the rundown industrial land had been used for a wet market.

Two years ago the design team developed a project that has turned the concrete factories into a lush green oasis in Shanghai's busy downtown area.

A large piazza-style communal courtyard is the centerpiece of the development. Connected via a fruit tree-lined, pedestrian-only path, the courtyard has been the venue of outdoor cinema events and has fruit vines climbing up parts of its latticing.

On the rooftops of the developments there are several abundant organic vegetable gardens providing produce to the restaurants below and there are places for residents to sit and enjoy a sunny autumn afternoon.

The design reflects the developers' focus on a healthy lifestyle based on sustainable living principles.

"We just want a very relaxed people's place, and health and sustainability are pretty high on the agenda here," he says.

The apartments are fully insulated and are furnished with non-toxic materials to eliminate harmful fumes from glues and chemicals frequently used in renovation.

In keeping with his mixed-use ideas for urban planning, Jiashan Markets have residential apartments, office space and restaurants and bars co-existing in the single development.

"The unique thing about this development is that mixed residential and commercial space," he says. "As far as I know, all the other former factory developments in Shanghai are work only."

The designers paid particular attention to the location of entertainment venues and bars are kept away from residential areas.

With several big projects on the go and the chance to, in some cases, reshape whole sections of fast-growing cities, Brearley says his decade in China has provided an unparalleled opportunity for an architect.

"You experience in 10 years in China what it might take an architect a lifetime to see in Australia."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend