Build It And They Will Come …… Urban Planning in China & The KS3 Curriculum

My year nine students have been working on a unit of work titled ‘sustainable planning’, which involves making some comparisons between planned settlement in the developed world with unplanned shanty towns in developing world cities. The first part of this unit involves an examination of current planning proposals for our home town, and following a field trip to a site ear-marked for development, students are given a chance to design their own living areas. Their proposals are assessed by a local architect, who then visits the school to talk about his work.

In my last blog, I described the new waterfront development in Singapore, and how I have used this as an example to stimulate creative designs. During his research, a student came across information that referred to a ‘green city’ project taking place in China  – and this has added a new resource to my collection.

The city is called Chengdu Tianfu Great City, and is to be built from scratch on farmland near to Chengdu, a giant megalopolis of 14 million people in south west China. It is to be designed by a team of architects from Chicago, and will be styled as a ‘pocket city’ of around 80,000 people that will help to alleviate some of China’s crowding and pollution problems.

The blueprint for the new city covers an area of only 1.3 square kilometres (or 0.5 square miles) – the equivalent to 245 football pitches. This is not a lot of space for 80,000 people, but the idea is that everything in the city is so close, it can be reached on foot within 15 minutes.

Architects claim the city will use 48% less energy and 58% less water than a conventional city with the same population, and it is designed to be self-sustaining, using waste summer heat to provide winter heating.  There is also a focus on creating open spaces and keeping the residents in touch with nature. Indeed, this area of China – the Chengdu Plain – is well known for its fertile farmland, and is often described as the ‘Country of Heaven’.

Gordon Gill, one of the architects, says “We have designed this project as a dense vertical city that acknowledges and in fact embraces the surrounding landscape – a city whose residents will live in harmony with nature rather than in opposition to it”.

This high-density city is designed to be a prototype, which could conceivably be replicated anywhere else in the country.  It is believed it will take only 8 years to construct, and work is scheduled to begin before the end of this year. As China’s cities continue to grow in response to the country’s rapid economic development, we may hear of many more being constructed in the future.

I have not seen any detailed designs yet, and am awaiting the efforts of my students to see what ideas they can conjure from their vivid imaginations.


About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
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