Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and Tom Leader Studio (TLS) were selected by the Administrative Committee of Xiong’an New Area to design the first phase of development of a new economic zone, envisioned as a model “city of the future” for China.
The winning scheme was selected from among 12 finalists representing 10 countries, following an international competition that received more than 200 entries. A jury selected the scheme by SOM and TLS for its global vision, world-class standards, sensitivity to Chinese heritage and culture, and innovative approach to urban design.
Located about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing in Hebei province, was established by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017 as a major new economic zone. This district features important wetlands ecosystems, including Baiyangdian, the largest freshwater lake in Northern China. The first phase of the Xiong’an New Area development is known as the Boot Area; it comprises 38 square kilometers, of which 26 square kilometers are designated for urban development. The project will accommodate Beijing’s non-capital functions, and is intended to attract innovation, promote high-quality development, and showcase new urban prototypes.
Between February and May 2019, the Xiong’an New Area administrative committee led a series of international workshops with SOM, TLS, domestic planning and design experts, and 15 planning, architecture, landscape, infrastructure and transportation design firms. The urban design scheme for the Boot Area is now nearing completion, and the production of guidelines for implementation is underway.
In their proposal, SOM and TLS prioritized ecology and the human experience through several urban design principles: respect the natural environment, create holistic sustainable systems, and introduce green infrastructure; establish an appropriate urban scale; integrate advanced technologies and a multi-modal public transit system; honor local culture and lifestyle by infusing the urban space and landscape with regional characteristics.
“The principles of livability, resiliency, and the preservation of local culture and heritage are at the core of our approach to urban planning and design,” said Thomas Hussey, SOM Director of Urban Design and Planning. “Our design creates innovative, new typologies in planning, landscape, and architecture, for new ways of urban living and working in nature.”
For thousands of years, the Baiyangdian area has witnessed the interdependent relationship between humans and nature; this is the inspiration for the design scheme, titled “City for Life.” The urban design vision centers on quality of life, while providing the foundation for an ever-evolving city. The scheme will restore and protect the natural environment, including native forests and wetlands, and it includes a comprehensive open space system surrounding the waterways. By integrating architecture with nature and the landscape, the urban design prioritizes residents’ health and wellbeing.
The landscape design by TLS creates a natural framework to define the urban form of Xiong’an. Tom Leader, principal and founder of TLS, said, “When we first thought about what will make this city exceptional in the world we asked ourselves these questions: How people will live here in a new way? How can their lives integrate with nature and Baiyangdian? How will the new residents establish their social fabric? What cultural legacy will inform these new social spaces?”
As a model for the future of development in China, Xiong’an seeks not only to balance urban living and nature, but also to bridge local culture with a global perspective—to embrace the world, and to create a “city for life.”