Working with Urban Context: Alternatives to Super-Density

Albert Chan
Director of Development Planning & Design
Shui On Land Limited, Shanghai

The explosive urban growth of China has defied almost every prior notion of human scale. Considering the fact that the nation has more than 150 cities of 1 million or more people, and plans to move some 250 million additional people into cities in the next decade, it is tempting to conclude that “the only way is up,” and that multitudes of identical high-rises are the only logical answer. There is much evidence in the Chinese landscape that would affirm this viewpoint; indeed, the vast majority of new developments are tabula-rasa, new-build compounds that obliterate all memory of what has come before and replicate a reliable if soul-deadening pro forma from one city to the next. Alternatively, the phenomenon could be seen as a grand opportunity to create neighborhoods that draw from the richness of the past, but which show the way to a more sustainable future.

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