Net City: Tencent builds a "city of the future" the size of Monaco in Shenzhen

Net City: Tencent builds in Shenzhen the size of the city of the future in Monaco

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Technology giant Tencent has unveiled plans for an almost entirely car-free “city of the future” equivalent to Monaco in the Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen,,

Entitled “Net City,” the 2 million-square-foot (22 million-square-foot) urban development will give priority to pedestrians, green spaces and self-driving vehicles, according to its designers.

Although primarily for the use of Tencent, many of the spaces and facilities will be accessible to the public. Credit: NBBJ

The ambitious city within a city is designed to occupy part of the regenerated land flowing into the mouth of the Pearl River. Designed to accommodate a population of about 80,000 people, the site will serve primarily Tencent, the conglomerate behind WeChat and China’s popular QQ messaging service.

But in addition to providing the company’s residences and offices, the neighborhood is expected to house shops, schools and other public amenities and will be connected to the rest of Shenzhen by road bridges, ferries and the city subway. The US company behind the master plan, NBBJ, hopes the new neighborhood’s entertainment venues, parks and promenade will attract visitors from other parts of the city.

The site will be built on a plot of reclaimed land.

The site will be built on a plot of reclaimed land. Credit: NBBJ

As such, the plan differs from the closed campuses set up by major technology companies in recent years, according to Jonathan Ward, a design partner at NBBJ.

“This is definitely a destination (and there is) a civic component,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s not meant to be an isolated, safe island – it’s a city of life. People will pass through it, connect … and it will be a vital hub for Shenzhen.”

Eliminate the car

With an unusually large vacant lot, NBBJ, which won an international site design competition, was able to rethink the car’s role in urban planning, Ward said.

“Our main goal was to provide a place where innovation can really thrive,” he explained. “For this purpose, we tried to minimize the impact of the car.

Going “carless” is still a bit of a challenge in our world, so we spent a lot of time designing the city to be as weak as possible, removing (cars from) where they shouldn’t be and focusing on people. ”

The master plan gives priority to pedestrians with limited access to conventional vehicles.

The master 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 on a “green corridor” for buses, bicycles and autonomous vehicles. The layout eliminates what Ward called “unnecessary” traffic.

“You don’t need one block surrounded by roads – you can have eight blocks surrounded by a road and take away all that is between them,” he said. We did “take out” roads in places where we think it’s perfectly good for people to walk two minutes longer than the subway or drop off taxis.

“And during those two minutes, you can see something inspiring, connect with nature, or meet a colleague you haven’t seen in a while – all those things you can see happening in a work environment can happen. in the city.”

Interconnected planning

In addition to integrating with the wider urban fabric of Shenzhen, the NBBJ master plan is designed to offer what it calls an “interconnected, human-oriented organic ecosystem.” For Tencent employees, this could mean bridging the gap between their work and personal lives – an idea that has become increasingly relevant in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ward said.

“Traditional cities are very fenced, 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 those lines (between work and play) and bring 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 adjust this model forward,” he added.

Elsewhere, the master plan addresses environmental sustainability with solar roof panels and sophisticated wastewater capture and reuse systems. Planners also reviewed forecasts for future sea level rise to ensure that buildings are better protected from climate change.

Transportation systems will connect a

Transportation systems will connect city-to-city with the rest of Shenzhen. Credit: NBBJ

Tencent is not the only private company that wants to create its own miniature city. Earlier this year, carmaker Toyota unveiled plans for 175 Acres “Woven City” at the foot of Mount Fuji, where he will test autonomous vehicles, intelligent technology and robot-assisted life. In Toronto, Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s Alphabet, planned to turn a stretch of beach into a futuristic new neighborhood before it cancels the project referring to the “economic uncertainty” caused by Covid-19.
A number of other large-scale developments are planned in Shenzhen, a city that has grown in size since 1980, when the Chinese government called it the Special Economic Zone. The first phase of a new business district, called Sheszhen Bay Headquarters City, also built on reclaimed land, is expected to be completed by 2022,,

Tencent’s Net City will take about seven years, and construction is expected to begin later this year. Dozens of individual buildings, which will range from one to 30 floors in height, will be designed by various architectural firms.

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