Advanced Design Studio: Plattus
This studio will be the fifteenth year of the Yale School of Architecture China Studio, and the fourth year of the collaboration between Yale and Tsinghua University School of Architecture in Beijing. With this studio, we are also continuing an investigation of urban development and redevelopment in the historic and contemporary Chinese capital city, with a particular emphasis on models of sustainable mixed-use and neighborhood development, in part funded by a grant from the Yale School of Architecture’s Hines Fund. Over the first three years the China Studio studied the impact of preservation, infill and new development on three sites along the historic north-south axis of Beijing, moving from the center outward to the urban periphery.
This year’s studio will inaugurate a new line of investigation along the development corridor that has recently been created by the high speed commuter rail connection from Beijing to the port city of Tianjin. Tianjin has been an important port city and center of trade since the Sui Dynasty (589-670) when the Grand Canal connected Beijing and Tianjin to Suzhou and Hangzhou in the south. In 1860, at the end of the Second Opium War, Tianjin became a Treaty Port and was opened to foreign trade, which fueled rapid development. More recently, it was granted special administrative and economic status as a National Central City, along with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing, and is already the fifth largest city in China after those megacities. In 2009, the so-called Binhai New Area was established as an economic development zone along the lines of Pudong in Shanghai and Shenzhen, creating a new center east of the historic center and in relation to the port area along the Bohai Sea. This area will have its own master planned CBD, being built from scratch in a bend of the Hai River. Already 258 Fortune 500 companies have established offices there and development is projected to include over 9 million square meters on a 2,500 hectare site.
The site for this year’s studio is a 170 hectare industrial site along the Hai River just to the west of the new CBD and flanked by the high speed rail corridor connecting to the South Station in Beijing with almost 50 pairs of trains a day travelling at speeds of 330 km per hour and making the roughly 120 km trip in around 30 minutes. The focus of the studio will be to understand the potential consequences for urban form and function of the corridor created by the high speed rail connection and current planning and urban design strategies, and to propose critical models for future sustainable development in relation to that corridor. The studio will also research various linear structuring models that have been developed over time, including historic urban axes such as the north-south axis of Beijing itself, modernist linear cities, and contemporary corridor and trail-based planning. Strategies developed will be tested at the scale of the site and specific architectural projects within the site.
As in past studios, Yale students will travel to China, tour the site and other relevant sites and projects in and around Tianjin and Beijing, meet with local planning officials, and, most importantly, collaborate with their counterparts, graduate students at Tsinghua University, to develop preliminary site analysis and design concepts. This interaction will continue throughout the term via video conferencing, and Tsinghua students and faculty have been invited to participate in final reviews at Yale. All students considering participating in the studio should make sure that they have a current passport in their possession that is valid for at least six months before expiration (expiring no sooner than 15 March 2015) and with sufficient space in the passport for a Chinese visa.