Named “Net City”, the urban development of 2 million square meters (22 million square feet) will give priority to pedestrians, green spaces and self-propelled vehicles, according to its designers.
Although primarily for use by Tencent, many of the spaces and facilities will be accessible to the public. Credit: NBBJ
But in addition to providing the company’s homes and offices, the neighborhood is expected to host shops, schools and other public facilities and will be connected to the rest of Shenzhen via road bridges, ships and the city’s metro system. The American company behind the general plan, NBBJ, hopes that the entertainment venues, parks and coastal area of the new area will attract visitors from elsewhere in the city.
The site will be built on a reclaimed land. Credit: NBBJ
As a result, the plan differs from closed universities led by major technology companies in recent years, according to Jonathan Ward, NBBJ’s design partner.
“It’s definitely a destination (and it has) a political element,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s not meant to be a secluded, safe island – it’s a living city. People will walk it, they’ll connect … and it’s a vital hub for Shenzhen.”
Eliminate the car
With an unusually large gap to work with, NBBJ – which won an international competition to design the website – was able to reconsider the role of the car in urban design, Ward said.
“Our main goal was to provide a place where innovation can really flourish,” he explained. “In order to do that, we tried to minimize the impact of the car as much as possible.
The “car-free” is still a bit difficult in our world, so we spent a lot of time designing the city to be as low-impact as possible, removing (cars from) where it doesn’t have to be and focusing on people. ”
The general plan gives priority to pedestrians, with limited access to conventional vehicles. Credit: NBBJ
Although regular cars will be able to access some parts of the neighborhood, the plan focuses around a “green corridor” designed for buses, bicycles and autonomous vehicles. The device eliminates what Ward called “unnecessary” motion.
“You don’t need a square surrounded by roads – you can have eight squares surrounded by a road and remove all that from each other,” he said. “We have” removed “roads in places where we think it is perfectly okay for people to walk two minutes more than the subway or taxi.
“And, in those two minutes, you can see something inspiring, connect with nature or meet a colleague you haven’t seen in a while – all these things you can see happening in a work environment can happen in city.”
In addition to being integrated into Shenzhen’s wider urban fabric, NBBJ’s overall design is designed to offer what it calls “interconnected, human organic ecosystems.” For Tencent employees, that could mean eliminating the distinction between their professional and private lives – an idea that has become increasingly relevant in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ward said.
“Traditional cities are very quiet, even in the densest cities where there is more interaction and mixing,” he added. “But what can happen now is that you can start blurring these lines (between work and play) and have more interaction between different parts of life.
“You see more blurring of these lines, for better or for worse. But I think we can do it for the better as we coordinate this model forward,” he added.
Elsewhere, the master plan looks at environmental sustainability with solar panels on the top floor and complex systems for capturing and reusing sewage. Designers also looked at forecasts for future sea level rise to ensure that buildings are better protected from climate change.
Transport systems will connect the “city-in-a-city” with the rest of Shenzhen. Credit: NBBJ
Tencent’s Net City will last about seven years, with construction expected to begin later this year. The dozens of individual buildings, ranging from one to 30 floors in height, will be designed by a variety of different architectural firms.