Architects meet city representatives at the workshop “Cautious Urban Renewal”
On 1.11.2018, the participants, who had already gotten to know each other during the Pecha Kucha evening, met once again in new surroundings – in the premises of the German Center in Beijing.
The workshop was introduced by the greeting words of the Vice President of the Federal Chamber of Architects, Prof. Ralf Niebergall, who highlighted the continuous commitment of the network architecture export NAXNAX Netzwerk Architekturexport in China, because already in 2016, NAX had organised a congress on sustainable planning for Chinese megacities in Beijing, on the findings and contacts of which this year’s delegation trip was based.
This year’s events in Beijing and Shanghai were supported by funding from the Export Initiative Environmental Technologies of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUBMU Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit) and were also accompanied in personnel terms by Dr. Ulrich Hatzfeld, Sub-department head at the BMU. In his prefatory words, Dr. Hatzfeld emphasised the goal of the export initiative, namely to improve living standards for people not only in Germany but worldwide. For that, above all, knowledge exchange is necessary between experts from different countries – such as the variety of event formats during the NAX trip to China allow, for example.
The goal of the all-day workshop with just about 60 participants was a project-related exchange between the accompanying German architects and the representatives of the three Chinese cities of Tianjin, Shijiazhuang and Xiangyang. For that, the municipal representatives first presented the current situation of urban regeneration projects in the respective cities and explained which challenges they face in the process and where they wanted or could imagine support from German planners. Proactively and creatively, there was discussion after the talks at round tables about solution possibilities for the respective projects and those were worked on.
DAQIU VILLAGE (TIANJIN): From “China’s richest city” to industrial wasteland
The Daqiu district outside of Tianjin, with its 110,000 inhabitants and an area of 124 km², is comparable in size and structure to smaller German industrial cities. In the 1980s and early 1990s, through stringent industrialization, the city developed from a poor agricultural region into the richest city in China. However, the town planning quality in the residential accommodations and working accommodations suffers to this day from the rapid growth.
The local government has set itself the goal to transform the city into a low-emission, liveable eco-city and to revitalise fallow industrial areas for this, above all. In the in-depth group discussion, the accompanying architects and German city officials elaborated together with the Chinese representatives on how Daqiu can give urban design expression to its 600-year-old history and the diverse social change of the past 40 years, so as to remain or to become worth living in.
YUHUA DISTRICT (SHIJIAZHUANG): In the fight for talents with Beijing and Shanghai
Meanwhile, in the district of Yuhua, a three hour drive from Beijing, the city of Shjiazhuang is facing completely different challenges: Yuhua only exists since 2001 and – on account of the industry resident there – is exposed to severe air and environmental pollution. Hence, the local authorities want to promote above all the service industry, stimulate the settlement of new technology companies and attract energy-saving and ecologically friendly trades.
In the group discussion, the German architects and researchers exchanged ideas with representatives of the Yuhua district, among other things about how the city can offer urban development incentives in the competition for young talents with Shanghai and Beijing. Here, it was also discussed how the research and innovation ability of the site could be improved urbanely and how Yuhua could transform its image from “grey to green”.
Xiangyang Old Town: Downtown devoid of attraction
The representatives of the city of Xiangyang described another situation: The city centre of the Xiangyang Old Town looks back on a 3,000 year-old history, however, nowadays offers an unattractive old town flair. The area covers 120,000 inhabitants with a population density of 54,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. Almost half of the Old Town buildings are under residential use, with the remaining buildings forming the commercial centre of Xiangyang.
The goal of the city administration is to preserve the cultural and architectural heritage of the Old Town, yet at the same time, however, make the district more liveable. This includes the creation of public green spaces, which are missing in the cityscape and up to now, and the conversion of a river bank area into a mixed use quarter. In the group discussion, the experts, together with the Xiangyang city representatives, elaborated on how the cultural heritage of the city can be used in architectural and urban planning and become the showcase of the region. At the same time, it was quickly agreed that further redevelopment of the riverbank necessitated further needs analyses among the residents.
Fresh input from German and Chinese experts
The work on the urban case studies alternated several times in the workshop course with input from German and Chinese architects who delivered new incentives for the discussions in the small groups. The prelude to the “expert’s input” was made by Dr. KONG Ping, member of the International Council for the Preservation of Monuments (ICOMOS) and LI Ran, Managing Director of the German-Chinese NAX architectural firm Rhinescheme. Both speakers spoke of possibilities and strategies of preserving or of reviving the social structure of neighbourhoods in the course of urban planning new developments.
Then, in the afternoon, Prof. Dr.-Eng. ZHANG Yajin of the International Urban Planning Studio ISA and WANG Keyao, Zhijian Workshop, in their impulse lectures, addressed the question of how a neighbourhood can be renewed without destroying its cultural heritage.
CONCLUSION: Sustainable urban renewal in China’s big cities is necessary and possible
The detailed discussions between German and Chinese city representatives, architects, scientists and city makers during the workshop showed that there is a great need for redevelopment of industrial wastelands and singularly used urban quarters in Chinese cities. Thanks to strict demands of the Chinese government and the wish of many towns for a “green” image change, in the meantime, there is also a growing awareness in the municipal administrations that urban renewal must follow social and ecological sustainability criteria.
The NAX workshop offered to German and Chinese parties involved in construction the possibility to exchange experience in the planning and implementation of regeneration projects and underlined the expert’s knowledge of German architects and engineers in energy-efficient and resource-saving construction. The accompanying architectural firms also had the opportunity to make contacts with potential clients and cooperation partners and to present their range of services to a diverse audience. The expert assessments of the architects also met with great interest among the representatives of the Chinese cities. A deepening of the format was desired by all those involved, e.g. through site inspections of the project areas and further work in smaller groups. NAX and its partners are already discussing what future cooperation opportunities might look like.
The workshop was presented by Magali Menant from our partner Constellations International. We would like to thank her once again, as well as all those involved, for their commitment, which provided the framework for a productive and interesting workshop day.